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China and the US launching secretive satellites this week - TWIRL #131

TWIRL logo in front of Falcon 9

This Week in Rocket Launches we have several launches coming up. There are a few Starlink missions as well as a few secretive military launches from the US and China. There are also a number of launches to look back on in the recap section.

Sunday, 24 September

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 B5
  • When: 12:06 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching 22 Starlink Mini satellites into a low Earth orbit where they will beam internet back down to earth for Starlink customers. With Starlink satellites being visible from Earth, its possible to find these exact satellites by finding their identification number on apps. The satellites launching on Sunday are designated Starlink Group 6-18.

Monday, 25 September

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 B5
  • When: 7:11 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 4, California, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching yet another group of Starlink Mini satellites into orbit, like the previous launch. This time, the satellites are designated as Starlink Group 7-3. As mentioned in previous TWIRL installments, SpaceX now paints its satellites with non-reflective coatings which help to reduce the reflectivity of the satellites.

Tuesday, 26 September

  • Who: China National Space Administration
  • What: Long March 4C
  • When: 8:14 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, China
  • Why: China will launch the Yaogan 33-04 satellite into orbit using a Long March 4C. It’s not certain what the satellite will be used for but it’s possible that it could be used for military reconnaissance. The Yaogan 33 satellites are apparently successors to the Yaogan 1 synthetic aperture radar satellites.

Friday, 29 September

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 Block 5
  • When: Unknown
  • Where: SpaceX LC-39A, Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be using a Falcon 9 to launch the USSF-123 mission for the US Space Force and Missile Defense Agency. As you may guess from the customers of this launch, the payloads are of a sensitive nature and have not been publicly disclosed.


  • The first launch last week took place on Sunday, China used a Long March 2D rocket to launch the second Yaogan 39 mission from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. The remote sensing satellite successfully entered its planned orbit.
  • On Monday, Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket carrying Capella Space’s Acadia-2 satellite from New Zealand. Unfortunately, there was a second stage anomaly and the mission was lost.
  • Finally, on Wednesday, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 carrying 22 Starlink satellites to orbit. The first stage successfully landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean and the satellites were orbited.

That’s all for this week, check in next time.

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