A Chinese Long March rocket blasted off from a remote desert launch base Friday (April 26) with a high-resolution Earth-imaging payload, Ecuador's first satellite and two other small satellites.
The Long March 2D rocket fired its hydrazine-fueled main engine at 0413 GMT (12:13 a.m. EDT) Friday and muscled off the launch pad at the Jiuquan space center in northwest China, powered by more than 650,000 pounds of thrust for the first 2 1/2 minutes of flight.
Liftoff occurred at 12:13 p.m. Beijing time. [2013 Rocket Launch Schedule]
The first stage engine gave way to the launcher's second stage to boost the mission's satellite passengers into orbit, where the payloads were released about 13 minutes after liftoff. The rocket was targeting a 422-mile-high (679 kilometers) sun-synchronous orbit optimized for imaging of Earth.