A Chinese Long March 3B rocket fired into space with Shijian 13, also known as Chinasat 16, to deliver Internet connectivity to remote parts of China, airline travellers and high-speed trains. The Shijian 13 satellite also has an experimental mission to test laser communications technology and electric thrusters to maintain its position in geostationary orbit. The spacecraft — with a launch weight of approximately 10,100 pounds (4,600 kilograms) from the Xichang space center in south-western China. The 184-foot-tall (56-meter) Long March 3B rocket, boosted by four liquid-fuelled strap-on engines, ascended into a cloudy sky over the Xichang space base nestled in a mountain valley in China’s Sichuan province, then turned east to send the Shijian 13 satellite into orbit.
After shedding its four boosters and hydrazine-burning first and second stages, the Long March 3B ignited its dual-nozzle YF-75 third stage engine, fuelled by liquid hydrogen, to place the Shijian 13 satellite into a preliminary geostationary transfer orbit. The mission aimed to release Shijian 13 into an elliptical, egg-shaped orbit with a high point nearly 22,300 miles (around 35,800 kilometres) above Earth, and a low point a few hundred miles up. The spacecraft carries a hybrid propulsion system, with a conventional liquid-fuelled thruster to reshape its orbit over the equator and circularize its altitude at 22,300 miles, where Shijian 13 will fly around Earth at the same rate of the planet’s rotation. Shijian 13, designed for a 15-year lifetime, has a higher message capacity than the combined capacity of all of China’s previous communications satellites.