Shiyan-10, the Chinese satellite is fully operational, some three weeks after an incident during launch looked to have resulted in the spacecraft’s demise. China deployed the experimental satellite, Shiyan-10 on a Long March 3B spaceship from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on September 27, however, no successful announcement was made. The payload reached a geosynchronous transfer orbit, which is 177 x 40,105 kilometers inclined by 51 degrees, according to data from the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (SPCS).
Hours later, Chinese official media stated that the rocket flight was normal, with the satellite landing precisely in its targeted transfer orbit, but that the spacecraft’s functioning circumstances were odd. Specific reasons are being studied and analyzed further. ChinaSat-18 (Zhongxing-18) was inserted into geosynchronous transfer orbit during a 2019 Long March 3B launch, but state media later announced that the satellite had malfunctioned, marking its last operation and update.
However, although ChinaSat-18 was destroyed and its orbit was slowly declining (184 x 32,330 kilometers), Shiyan-10 was able to boost its orbit. Shiyan-10 has executed minor burns to elevate the orbit’s perigee to 567 x 40,428 km, according to new orbital elements supplied by SPCS. This shows that smaller backup engines are being employed to circularize the orbit rather than a larger burn by a primary engine.
While the satellite is presently operational and firing its engines upwards of two weeks after launch, its health and operational state, as well as its planned goals, are unknown. Neither Chinese official media nor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s major space contractor, have commented on the development.
A photo of an apparent Shiyan-10 ‘big red screen,’ which is displayed at the Chinese mission control centers when a launch is declared successful, appeared momentarily on social media before being quickly erased. If and when the spacecraft reaches its planned orbit, an announcement may be made. Shiyan is thought to be a series of experimental satellites designed to test new satellite technology, with the first one launched in 2004.
The Long March 3B offers a reliable launch vehicle for GTO missions. In early August, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), a key CASC subsidiary and launcher manufacturer, said that seven more Long March 3B launches would take place before the end of the year. Three of such have now occurred, however, it is unclear whether the problem with Shiyan-10 was caused by the launch vehicle and whether the schedule will be affected. CASC has already completed 35 launches in 2021, with a goal of exceeding 40 by the close of the year.