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China and Imagery Intelligence

The PRC has been conducting space-based imaging of the Earth since 1975, when it became the third country in the world to retrieve high resolution photographs of the planet shot from space. Although some of these FSW (Fanhui Shi Weixing - Recoverable Satellite) missions may have been in whole or in part related to civil requirements, Western assessments have long held that some, if not all, were also concerned with photographic reconnaissance of a national security nature. By mid-1999 a total of 17 FSW-class spacecraft had been orbited with 15 successful recoveries, and there have been no subsequent flights.

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