China spy sat launched

China has caught space-watchers by surprise, launching the second of its Shijian-16 satellites on Wednesday with pretty much no fanfare.

A statement via Xinhua says merely that the satellite will be "used for conducting spacial [sic] environment detection and technological experiments."

The Long March 4B launch took the satellite to what Spaceflight Now calls an "unusual" orbit: an altitude of 600 km inclined at 75 degrees to the Equator.

That, and the fact that China didn't pre-announce the launch, leads Spaceflight Now to speculate that it's a communications interception satellite.

The first Shijian-16 was launched in 2013. ®

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