Yaogan (simplified Chinese: 遥感卫星; traditional Chinese: 遙感衞星; pinyin: Yáogǎn Wèixīng; lit. 'Remote Sensing Satellite') is a broad term used by the People's Republic of China to refer to its military reconnaissance satellites. Yaogan satellites are largely known to primarily support the People's Liberation Army's Strategic Support Force (PLASSF), formerly the Aerospace Reconnaissance Bureau of the Second Department of the General Staff. Yaogan satellites are the successor program to the Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW) recoverable reconnaissance satellite program but, unlike its predecessor, includes a variety of classes utilizing various means of remote sensing such as optical reconnaissance, synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), and electronic intelligence (ELINT) for maritime surveillance. Yaogan satellites have been launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) in Shanxi province, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in Sichuan province.
|Country||People's Republic of China|
|Organization||China Academy of Space Technology (CAST)|
|First flight||27 April 2006|
Although individual Yaogan satellites are often referred to by their number (e.g. Yaogan-18), Chinese military reconnaissance satellites are typically categorized by their military Jianbing designation. Jianbing (尖兵) translates to "point soldier", "vanguard", or "pioneer" and entered use in satellite designations with China's very first series of reconnaissance satellites, FSW-0, as the Jianbing-1 series. The first Yaogan satellite, Yaogan 1, is one of three Jianbing-5 (JB-5) series satellites following the final FSW-3 satellites of the Jianbing-4 (JB-4) series.
Chinese synthetic-aperture radar (SAR, Chinese: 合成孔径雷达; pinyin: héchéng kǒngjìng léidá) sensor development began in the late 1970s under the Electronic Research Institute of the China Academy of Sciences (CAS) resulting in the testing of the first airborne X-band mono-polarization SAR collection in 1981. By 1994, CAS had introduced its first operational, real-time airborne SAR system to monitor flooding and transmit collected data to ground stations. Preliminary research and development of China's first-generation, space-based SAR system began sometime in the 1980s with development beginning in full in 1991. High-resolution, space-based SAR collection has been ambitiously pursued by the PLA for its potential contributions to all-weather targeting of naval forces in the Taiwan Strait.
Jianbing-5 series satellites (abbreviated "JB-5") are China's first space-based synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites and the first satellites in the Yaogan program. The development and production of the Jianbing-5 series of satellites have been entirely funded by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as the ability to penetrate the seemingly constant cloud cover present in the southern provinces of Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guandgong, and Hainan challenges traditional optical collection in those regions. The PLA also believes that in a potential war SAR collection capabilities will be vital to information dominance by mapping terrain, identifying targets through cloud cover, rain, fog, and dust, and potentially monitoring enemy submarines in shallow waters or targets in subterranean facilities. In May 1995, the finalized designs were approved and development began in earnest with the approval of the State Science & Technology Committee (SSTC) and Commission for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND). The China Academy of Science (CAS) Institute of Electronics built the SAR instruments onboard Jianbing-5 satellites, the craft itself designed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) who also develops the Long March 4B launch vehicle. Other developers involved in the project are the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST or 5th Space Academy) 501st and 504th Institutes, the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC)'s Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology (known also as the 14th Institute), the Southwest Institute of Electronic Equipment (SWIEE or 29th Institute), and the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics (BUAA). SAST is also the developer of the Feng Yun series of weather satellites.
Jianbing-5 satellites are built by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) and launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) and provide military analysts synthetic-radar imagery purportedly at a resolution as high as 5 meters over the L-band (1–2 GHz). JB-5 satellites have been confirmed to have an electronic motor-powered solar panel which can be expanded and contracted by the ground control station. Jianbing-5 class satellites have a reported mass of 2,700 kilograms, orbital inclination of approximately 97° in sun-synchronous orbit, and with two operational satellites enjoys a twice daily revisit rate at a 45° viewing angle. Between April 2006 and August 2010, China launched three Jianbing-5 SAR satellites, the last two of which remain in operation from Taiyuan SLC. Yaogan 1, launched in April 2006, reportedly broke up around 4 February 2010 almost four years after its launch. Due to the small number of pieces and low orbital speeds, the breakup was likely due to an internal explosion, not a high-speed collision.
Yaogan 29, launched in November 2015 into a similar orbit, appears to be the modernized successor to the Jianbing-5 series of SAR satellites.
The Jianbing-7 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-7", are Chinese military radar reconnaissance satellites built by SAST with an orbital period of 97 minutes and a side-looking radar system designed by the Institute of Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. As of July 2022, China has launched four Jianbing-7 radar satellites with the first launched in April 2009 and the latest in November 2014 with a mass of 1,200 kilograms (2,600 pounds) from Taiyuan SLC. The third satellite of the Jianbing-7 class, launched in October 2013, had its orbit lowered from April to July 2020 and consequently underwent an uncontrolled decay reentering the atmosphere in 2021.
Although the Jianbing designation is still unknown for latest class of SAR reconnaissance satellites, China has launched three satellites of a modernized successor class to the Jianbing-5 and Jianbing-7 classes of SAR reconnaissance satellites. This class uses the same orbit as the Jianbing-5 class but likely has a different design according to published illustrations. The second satellite of this class, Yaogan 33, failed to reach orbit in May 2019. Its likely replacement, Yaogan 33R, was launched a year and a half later but used different launch site (Jiuquan instead of Taiyuan) and into a higher orbit (682 km × 686 km).
The Jianbing-6 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-6", provides the Chinese military optical imaging capabilities to compliment the Jianbing-5 class's SAR reconnaissance capabilities. It has been reported that satellites of the Jianbing-6 class have a resolution of 0.8 meters. Jianbing-6 satellites were developed by CAST based on the CAST2000 satellites bus originally developed by the China SpaceSat Company Ltd. Jianbing-6 satellites image the Earth with a spatial resolution of approximately 1.5 meters and transmit them via X-band receiving telemetry, tracking, and command signals over the S-band. As of July 2022, China individually launched six Yaogan satellites of the Jianbing-6 class into low Earth orbit (LEO) with the first satellite launched in May 2006 and the latest in May 2016. The Bolivian Agency for Space Activities signed a US$140 million deal with China Great Wall Industries Co. Ltd. to launch the Venezuelan Remote-Sensing Satellite 1 (VRSS-1) in May 2011 marking China's first export of a reconnaissance satellite. VRSS-1 was based on the design of Jianbing-6 satellites and was launched on 29 September 2012 from Jiuquan SLC.
The Jianbing-9 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-9" provides the Chinese military with optical imaging capabilities, likely as a successor to the Jianbing-6 class, thought it does orbit at a much higher altitude at 1,200 km indicating that satellites of this class are lower-resolution mapping and area surveillance satellites. The optical payload of Yaogan satellites in the Jianbing-9 class was developed by the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics. China has launched five individual Yaogan satellites of the Jianbing-9 class with the first launched in December 2009 and the latest in August 2015 from Taiyuan SLC.
The Jianbing-10 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-10" provides the Chinese military with optical imaging capabilities. Believed to also be based on the CAST2000 satellite bus, like those of the Jianbing-6 class, three Jianbing-10-class satellites built by CAST and carrying an optical imaging system from the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics have been individually launched with the first launched in December 2008 and the reported last of the class in September 2014 from Taiyuan SLC.
The Jianbing-11 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-11" provides the Chinese military with optical imaging capabilities. As of May 2022, China has launched two individually launched Yaogan satellites of the Jianbing-11 class with the first launched in May 2012 and the latest in November 2015.
The Jianbing-12 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-12", are military optical reconnaissance satellites.
In response to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's visit to the United States in 1995, the PRC initiated the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis conducting high-profile missile tests, amphibious landing drills, and troop staging in Fujian Province, across the strait from the island of Taiwan. The United States government responded to the PRC's escalation by deploying the largest American show of force since the Vietnam War including sending two American carrier battle groups which effectively forced the PRC to deescalate. Since then, the PLA has committed to design and field advanced anti-ship missile systems including the Dong Feng 21 and has deployed nearly sixty maritime surveillance satellites using electronic intelligence (ELINT) to locate, identify, and track adversarial vessels to support targeting.
The Jianbing-8 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-8", consist of one primary satellite and two sub-satellites launched in triplets. These satellites reportedly perform an ocean or naval surveillance mission similar to those of the United States' Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS or PARCAE) despite the Chinese state-media's insistence they were designed to "conduct electromagnetic environmental monitoring and related technology tests". The triplet groups likely fly in a loose formation to locate radio emitters using the difference in time of arrival of radio signals at the different satellites. Jianbing-8 satellites are based on the CAST2000 satellites bus and have a mass of 200 kilograms (440 pounds) and an orbital period of 107.10 minutes in LEO. As of May 2022, there have been nine launches of Jianbing-8 triplets (twenty-seven total satellites) from Jiuquan SLC with the first triplet launching in March 2010 and the latest in March 2021.
The CX-5 or Chuangxin-5 (simplified Chinese: 创新; traditional Chinese: 創新; pinyin: Chuàngxīn; lit. 'Innovation') class of satellites, the only known Yaogan satellites to have been launched at Xichang SLC, are still largely shrouded in secrecy and their purpose is only speculated to be ELINT by nature of their triplet launches, similar to satellites of the Jianbing-8 class.
|Yaogan 1||JB-5-1||27 April 2006||SAR||635 km × 637 km||97.9°||29092||2006-015A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Decayed|
|Yaogan 2||JB-6-1||25 May 2007||EO||639 km × 663 km||97.9°||31490||2007-019A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 3||JB-5-2||12 November 2007||SAR||635 km × 637 km||97.8°||32289||2007-055A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 4||JB-6-2||1 December 2008||EO||642 km × 660 km||97.9°||33446||2008-061A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 5||JB-10-1||15 December 2008||Optical||494 km × 501 km||97.3°||33456||2008-064A||CAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Decayed|
|Yaogan 6||JB-7-1||22 April 2009||SAR||518 km × 519 km||97.6°||34839||2009-021A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 7||JB-6-3||9 December 2009||EO||630 km × 666 km||97.8°||36110||2009-069A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 8||JB-9-1||15 December 2009||Optical||1200 km × 1212 km||100.5°||36121||2009-072A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 9A||JB-8-1A||5 March 2010||ELINT||1089 km × 1107 km||63.4°||36413||2010-009A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 10||JB-5-3||10 August 2010||SAR||629 km × 627 km||97.8°||36834||2010-038A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 11||JB-6-4||22 September 2010||EO||670 km × 625 km||98.0°||37165||2010-047A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 12||JB-10-2||9 November 2011||EO||479 km × 495 km||97.3°||37875||2011-066B||CAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Operational|
|Yaogan 13||JB-7-2||30 November 2011||SAR||502 km × 504 km||97.4°||37941||2011-072A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 14||JB-11-1||10 May 2012||EO||471 km × 474 km||97.3°||38257||2012-021A||CAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Operational|
|Yaogan 15||JB-9-2||29 May 2012||EO||1198 km × 1204 km||100.2°||38354||2012-029A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 16A||JB-8-2A||25 November 2012||ELINT||1085 km × 1096 km||63.4°||39011||2012-066A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 17A||JB-8-3A||1 September 2013||ELINT||1060 km × 1119 km||63.4°||39239||2013-046A||SAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 18||JB-7-3||29 October 2013||SAR||509 km × 514 km||97.5°||39363||2013-059A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 2C||Decayed|
|Yaogan 19||JB-9-3||20 November 2013||EO||1119 km × 1204 km||100.4°||39410||2013-065A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 20A||JB-8-4A||9 August 2014||ELINT||1086 km × 1092 km||63.4°||40109||2014-047A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 21||JB-10-3||8 September 2014||EO||481 km × 492 km||97.4°||40143||2014-053A||CAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Operational|
|Yaogan 22||JB-9-4||20 October 2014||EO||1198 km × 1207 km||100.3°||40275||2014-063A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 23||JB-7-4||14 November 2014||SAR||511 km × 513 km||97.3°||40305||014-071A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 24||JB 6-5||20 November 2014||EO||629 km × 654 km||97.9°||40310||2014-072A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 25A||JB-8-5A||10 December 2014||ELINT||1091 km × 1098 km||63.4°||40338||2014-080A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 26||JB-12-1||27 December 2014||EO||482 km × 488 km||97.4°||40362||2014-088A||CAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Operational|
|Yaogan 27||JB-9-5||27 August 2015||EO||1201 km × 1214 km||100.4°||40878||2015-040A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 28||JB-11-2||8 November 2015||EO||476 km × 490 km||97.3°||41026||2015-064A||CAST||TSLC||Long March 4B||Operational|
|Yaogan 29||JB-?-1||26 November 2015||SAR||635 km × 636 km||97.9°||41038||2015-069A||SAST||TSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30||JB-6-6||15 May 2016||EO||634 km × 664 km||98.0°||41473||2016-029A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-1A||CX-5||29 September 2017||ELINT||602 km × 611 km||35.0°||42945||2017-058A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-2A||CX-5||24 November 2017||ELINT||603 km × 610 km||35.0°||43028||2017-075A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-3A||CX-5||25 December 2017||ELINT||602 km × 610 km||35.0°||43081||2017-085A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-4A||CX-5||25 January 2018||ELINT||602 km × 610 km||35.0°||43170||2018-011A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31A||JB-8 6A||10 April 2018||ELINT||1085 km × 1110 km||63.4°||43275||2018-034A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31B||JB-8 6B||43276||2018-034B||Operational|
|Yaogan 31C||JB-8 6C||43277||2018-034C||Operational|
|Yaogan 32A||Unknown||9 October 2018||EO||701 km × 703 km||98.2°||43642||2018-077A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 2C/YZ-1S||Operational|
|Yaogan 33||JB-?-2||23 May 2019||SAR||(Launch Failure)||Unknown||TSLC||Long March 4C||Failed|
|Yaogan 30-5A||CX-5||25 July 2019||ELINT||602 km × 609 km||35.0°||44449||2019-045A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-6A||CX-5||24 March 2020||ELINT||602 km × 609 km||35.0°||45460||2020-021A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-7A||CX-5||26 October 2020||ELINT||595 km × 612 km||35.0°||45807||2020-076A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 33R||JB-?-3||27 December 2020||SAR||683 km × 686 km||98.3°||47302||2020-103A||SAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31D||JB-8 6D||29 January 2021||ELINT||1090 km × 1098 km||63.4°||47532||2021-007A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31E||JB-8 6E||47533||2021-007B||Operational|
|Yaogan 31F||JB-8 6F||47534||2021-007C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31G||JB-8 6G||24 February 2021||ELINT||1090 km × 1100 km||63.4°||47691||2021-014A||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31H||JB-8 6H||47692||2021-014B||Operational|
|Yaogan 31J||JB-8 6J||47693||2021-014C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31K||JB-8 6K||13 March 2021||ELINT||1090 km × 1098 km||63.4°||47855||2021-020B||CAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31L||JB-8 6L||47855||2021-020C||Operational|
|Yaogan 31M||JB-8 6M||47857||2021-020D||Operational|
|Yaogan 34||Unknown||30 April 2021||EO||1083 km × 1105 km||Unknown||48340||2021-037A||SAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-8A||CX-5||6 May 2021||ELINT||591 km × 602 km||35.0°||48423||2021-039A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-9A||CX-5||18 June 2021||ELINT||591 km × 602 km||35.0°||48860||2021-055A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 30-10A||CX-5||19 July 2021||ELINT||591 km × 602 km||35.0°||49026||2021-065A||CAST||XSLC||Long March 2C||Operational|
|Yaogan 32-2A||Unknown||3 November 2021||SIGINT||689 km × 704 km||98.27°||49383||2021-099A||Unknown||JSLC||Long March 2C/YZ-1S||Operational|
|Yaogan 35A||Unknown||6 November 2021||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||49389||2021-101A||CAST
|XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 34-2||Unknown||17 March 2022||EO||1083 km × 1105 km||63.38°||52084||2022-027A||SAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 02-A||Unknown||23 June 2022||ELINT||499 km × 508 km||35.0°||52907||2022-068A||CAST
|XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 02-B||Unknown||498 km × 509 km||35.0°||52908||2022-068B||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 02-C||Unknown||496 km × 506 km||35.0°||52909||2022-068C||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 03-A||Unknown||29 July 2022||ELINT||499 km × 508.6 km||35.0°||53316||2022-088A||CAST
|XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 03-B||Unknown||496.6 km × 511.2 km||35.0°||53317||2022-088B||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 03-C||Unknown||497.5 km × 510.4 km||35.0°||53318||2022-088C||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 04-A||Unknown||19 August 2022||ELINT||491 km × 502 km||35.0°||53522||2022-100A||CAST
|XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 04-B||Unknown||490 km × 502 km||35.0°||53523||2022-100B||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 04-C||Unknown||488 km × 500 km||35.0°||53524||2022-100C||Operational|
|Yaogan 33-2||Unknown||2 September 2022||SAR||688 km × 680 km||98.18°||53698||2022-106A||SAST||JSLC||Long March 4C||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 05-A||Unknown||6 September 2022||ELINT||502 km × 491 km||35.0°||53760||2022-109A||CAST
|XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 05-B||Unknown||501 km × 488 km||35.0°||53761||2022-109B||Operational|
|Yaogan 35 05-C||Unknown||501 km × 489 km||35.0°||53762||2022-109C||Operational|
|Yaogan 36A||Unknown||26 September 2022||Unknown||499 km × 486 km||35.0°||53943||2022-120A||CAST
|XSLC||Long March 2D||Operational|
|Yaogan 36B||Unknown||499 km × 488 km||35.0°||53946||2022-120B||Operational|
|Yaogan 36C||Unknown||498 km × 485 km||35.0°||53947||2022-120C||Operational|
|Table data sourced from previously cited references, "CalSky". calsky.com. CalSky. Retrieved 9 November 2016. and "Real Time Satellite Tracking". n2yo.com. N2YO. Retrieved 9 November 2016."Yaogan 30-01, ..., 30-07 (CX 5)". Gunter's Space Page. 30 May 2020. Retrieved 14 October 2020.|
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