Wednesday, October 7, 2015

China Launches Four Jilin-1 Earth-observing Satellites into Space

A Long March-2D carrier rocket carrying the "Jilin-1" satellites blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, Oct. 7, 2015. Credit: Xinhua/Zhao Peng

China successfully launched a group of four Jilin-1 Earth-observing satellites on Wednesday, Oct. 7, using the country’s Long March 2D orbital carrier rocket. The lift-off occurred at 0:13 a.m. EDT (4:13 GMT) from the Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province.

The satellites were put into a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of 407 miles. They will focus on providing images to commercial clients, while helping with harvest assessment, geological disaster prevention and resource surveys.

The Jilin-1 constellation consists of two Lingqiao satellites, one Optical Sat A and one LQSat spacecraft. The Lingqiao-A and Lingqiao-B satellites are designed to capture videos with a 4K ultra-clear video resolution. Weighing 209 lbs. each, its dimensions are 3.6 ft. diameter and 3.9 ft. length. The Optical Sat A is a commercial Chinese remote sensing satellite capable of collecting multi-band high-resolution Earth imagery. Weighing 926 lbs., the satellite has a 28.3 inch resolution pan-chromatic camera and 157 inch resolution multi-spectral camera. LQSat is a micro-satellite for technology demonstration. The spacecraft has a mass of 121 lbs. and is capable of agile imaging, stereo imaging and video collection, covering a ground swath of approximately 6 miles.

The Jilin-1 satellites were developed and produced by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd. The company will take charge of commercial operations of the satellites to provide remote-sensing data and relevant products, which may be used for the monitoring, development, and surveying of resources as well as mapping and disaster prevention for domestic and overseas clients, according to the statement.

"Satellites are no longer far removed from people's lives," said Xuan Ming, board chairman of the company. "In the near future, more information provided by the satellites will be shared, and more satellite functions will be explored."

Jilin province is one of the country's oldest industrial bases and is developing its equipment manufacturing, aerospace research and satellite industry as a new economic drive. The province has ambitious plans to launch 60 satellites by 2020 and 137 by 2030, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Between 2016 and 2019 there are plans to have 16 satellites in orbit, completing a remote sensing network that will cover the entire globe and will be capable of a three to four hours update in the data provided. From 2020, the plans point to a 60 satellite orbital constellation capable of a 30 minutes update in the data provided. From 2030 the Jilin constellation will have 138 satellites in orbit, forming an all-day, all-weather, full spectrum acquisition segment data and a capability of observing any global arbitrary point with a 10 minutes revisit capability, providing the world’s highest spatial resolution and time resolution space information products.

The Long March 2D, used for Wednesday’s mission is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. It is mainly used to launch a variety of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The 135 ft. (41.15 m) tall booster can launch payloads of up to 3.5 metric tons to LEO and has a SSO capability of up to 1.3 metric tons.

The rocket was launched for the first time on Aug. 9, 1992, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing FSW-2-1 recoverable satellite.

Wednesday’s lift-off was the 226th Chinese orbital launch and the 213th mission carried out by the Long March vehicle family. It was also the 80th orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and the 10th orbital launch for China this year. The country plans five more launches by the end of 2015. Next Chinese mission is scheduled for Oct. 17, when a Long March 3B rocket will send APStar-9 communications satellite into orbit.

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