China successfully launches satellite

A Long March-2C carrier rocket carrying a new astronomical satellite named Einstein Probe blasts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, January 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP / Xinhua)

China successfully launched a satellite into space on Tuesday, state broadcaster CCTV said.

“At 3:03 pm Beijing time (0703 GMT) on January 9, 2024, China successfully launched the Einstein Probe satellite,” CCTV reported.

The launch triggered concern in Taiwan, where authorities issued emergency phone notifications warning the public to “please beware of your safety”. Taiwan’s foreign minister said the alert was issued because of possible “debris”.

The Einstein Probe set off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwestern Sichuan province, around 2,000 kilometres (1,243 miles) from Taiwan’s capital Taipei, state media said.

CCTV said it was launched “using the Long March-2C carrier rocket… and the satellite entered its designated orbit”.

The satellite will “observe mysterious transient phenomena in the universe comparable to the flickering of fireworks”, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.

It will aim to unveil “the violent and little-known aspects of the cosmos”, Xinhua added.

Footage released by CCTV showed the white rocket soaring into the air in a plume of white smoke before separating in orbit.

Scientist Yuan Weimin, who led the project, was quoted by state media as describing it as the “most beautiful satellite I’ve ever seen”.

Plans for China’s “space dream” have been put into overdrive under President Xi Jinping.

The world’s second-largest economy has pumped billions of dollars into its military-run space programme to catch up with the United States and Russia.

In October, the country sent a fresh team to its Tiangong space station — the latest crewed mission for a growing space programme that plans to send people to the Moon by 2030.

An annual report by the US Department of Defense to Congress last year estimated that China had conducted 60 successful space launches, putting 180 satellites in orbit in 2022 — a five-fold increase compared to five years prior.

That report also placed China in second place behind the United States in terms of operational satellites.