China launches three new spy satellites amid border dispute with India and tensions in the South China Sea

China launches three new spy satellites amid border dispute with India and tensions in the South China Sea
Trio of Yaogan-30 satellites take off aboard the Long March 2C rocket from LC-3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center last night on October 26CASC
  • China launched three new spy satellites dubbed the Yaogan-30 series to add to its military surveillance constellation — the Chuangxin-5.
  • Experts believe these satellites are capable of using signal intelligence to detect ships by their radio emissions.
  • This comes at a time when tensions are high in the South China Sea, the QUAD is strengthening, and China is locked in a faceoff with India along the border.
China has launched three new reconnaissance satellites into orbit around Earth. Little is known about these spy satellites dubbed the Yaogan-30 series, except that they will be in orbit roughly 600 kilometers above the Earth and are a part of the Chuangxin-5 (CX-5) constellation.

According to Chinese media, these satellites will be used for ‘electromagnetic environment detection and related tests’. However, experts assert that these satellites will be used to fulfil military goals by way of signal intelligence (SIGINT) — like detecting ships by their radio emissions.

This comes at a time when China is being criticised for its growing aggression in the South China Sea. The Asian giant is also locked in a faceoff against India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and according to military experts, exploiting the ‘Malacca dilemma’ in the Indo-Pacific could be one military option at India’s disposal.

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The Malacca Strait, located near the Andaman and Nicobar islands, is one of the most congested waterways in the world. It’s also the seaway that links the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. Exercising control over it gives India the option to choke China’s energy supply since most of its oil passes through the Malacca Strait.

The informal alliance between the US, India, Japan and Australia called the QUAD is also strengthening. This will be the first year where the four have agreed to carry out the annual Malabar exercise together.

The naval exercise began as a bilateral endeavour between India and the USA in 1992. It was later expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015. Now, Australia will be the fourth participating country.

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China is also locked in a hotbed of geopolitical tension within its own borders against the autonomous regions of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

China launches three spy satellites
The trio of Yaogan-30 satellites will join the CX-5 constellation, which now consists of 21 satellites. They took off aboard the Long March 2C rocket from LC-3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center last night on October 26.

This was the second Yaogan-30 set of satellites to launch this year and the seventh group overall. China has been adding to the constellation since 2017 with the satellites developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Small Satellite Center (CASC).

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Tianqi-6, which China claims is a data acquisition satellite, was also onboard the Long March 2 C rocket during last night’s launch. It belongs to the Beijing Guodian Gaoke Technology company. It is a part of the technology verification tests that the company plans to carry out for the narrow-band Internet of Things (IoT) constellation called the ‘Apocalypse Constellation’.

Although China has been one of the epicenters of the global coronavirus pandemic, it has continued to launch rockets throughout the outbreak. China claims that it has been making sure its engineers and other launch staff are adequately protected in a quarantined environment.

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