Re-Entry: Long March 3B Rocket Body from Comm Satellite Launch

Photo: Xinhua
Photo: Xinhua

A Long March 3B rocket stage re-entered the atmosphere on May 14, 2016 after a little over five months in orbit, making a slow decay from a highly elliptical Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The Long March 3B rocket launched the ChinaSat-2C communications satellite.

NORAD ID: 41104
Origin: China
Object: CZ-3B Rocket Body
Type: Long March 3 Upper Stage
Dry Mass: 2,740 Kilograms
Inclination: 26.6°
Launched: December 9, 2015 – 16:46 UTC
Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Launch Site: Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China

Re-Entry Prediction: May 14, 2016 – 03:27UTC +/-7 Min.
Re-Entry Zone: Atlantic Ocean, North Africa

>>Launch Article

The secretive communications satellite is known as ChinaSat-2C, or Zhongxing-2C, part of a series of military communications satellites operated by the Chinese armed forces. No information or technical details are available on the satellite, though its designation reveals that it is likely belonging to the second generation of Shentong tactical communications satellites designed to deliver secure voice and data communications to ground terminals operating at the Ku-Band frequency.

Shentong was inaugurated in 2003 when ChinaSat-20 entered orbit, followed by another first generation launch in 2010. ChinaSat-2A, the first in the Shentong-2 series, was lifted to orbit in May 2012. Because the ChinaSat designation includes both commercial and military communications satellites, the differentiation between the two becomes somewhat more complex, though the lack of information available on the 2C satellite clearly suggests military operation.

Re-Entry Zone
Image: Spaceflight101/Orbitron
Image: Spaceflight101/Orbitron