Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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China Launches Second Shijian-16 SIGINT/ELINT Spy Satellite

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The second in the first pair of Shijian-16 signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronics intelligence (ELINT) spy satellites designed to spy mainly on the United States military in Asia has now reached its inclined orbit 600 kilometers above the Equator.

Shijian-16-02 joins its sister satellite, Shijian-16-01, launched in October 2015 in the same orbit. The orbit of both spysats inclined 75 degrees to the Equator is an unusual orbit that makes it easier for both spysats to intercept encrypted signals from the US military. These intercepted electronic signals will then be analyzed and decoded by Chinese intelligence agencies.

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Following the launch, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reported an object -- Shijian 16-02 -- orbiting in a 595 km x 616 km x 75.01 degree orbit similar to Shijian-16-01.

The orbit of Shijian-16-02 launched June 29 by a Long March-4B rocket from a remote launch base in the Gobi Desert belies China's propaganda claim the satellite is a civilian sat that will conduct "spacial environment detection and technological experiments."

China also alleges Shijian-16-02 will also be used to probe the space environment, radiation and its effects, record space physical environment parameters and conduct other related space experiments.

Chinese media did not announce the lift-off in advance, which is standard practice for China's secret military space missions.

Shijian-16-01 is the first of a new series that will succeed the Shijian-6 series that consists of four pairs with two satellites each. The Shijian-6 satellites were launched between 2004 and 2010.

NORAD is a combined organization of the United States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty and defense for Northern America.

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