China has fired off a new variant of its Long March 11 long-range carrier rocket intended to launch new, heavier payload satellites with greater thrust and a wider, taller form factor.
“The upgraded variant, called the Long March 11A, will be able to send 1.5 tons of payload to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 kilometers, nearly four times the Long March 11’s capacity to that orbit,” China’s Online People’s Daily stated in a June 1st report.
The larger payload will allow a wider range of sensors, cameras, long-range data link signals, and possibly even function as a weapons detection or delivery system.
“Two satellites carried by a Long March-2D carrier rocket were launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Northwest China’s Gansu province, May 31, 2020,” the report said.
The launch took place from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. The mission, launching two demonstrator satellites, marked the first launch of a 2-diameter fairing and the precedent-setting first use of a solid-fuel rocket, the Chinese report said.