Friday, January 5, 2018

Long March 2D to Send a Duo of SuperView-1 Satellites into Orbit

Artist's rendering of the SuperView-1 satellite. Image Credit: Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd.

China is gearing up to conduct its first orbital flight of 2018. The mission, scheduled for Tuesday, January 9, will employ a Long March 2D booster to send two SuperView-1 Earth-observing satellites into space. The rocket will lift off at around 3:20 GMT (10:20 p.m. EST on January 8) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) located in China’s Shanxi Province.

The launch of SuperView-1 duo opens up a busy 2018 launch manifest for China, which includes about 35-40 orbital missions. Among many communications and Earth-observing satellites, Beijing aims to launch this year the Chang’e 4 lander - the first spacecraft to attempt a soft landing on far side of the Moon. The country also eyes the debut of its new light-lift launcher, Kuaizhou-11, and plans to perform the first orbital launch from a sea platform.

Preparations for the launch of the two newest SuperView-1 satellites started in November 2017 as the liftoff was initially scheduled for December 25. However, China decided to launch other a Long March 2C from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center instead, and postponed the launch of Long March 2D by two weeks.

What is typical for most Chinese space missions, very little information is available about the launch and about the flight timeline. The Long March 2D rocket will most likely fly for about 10 minutes in order to send the two passengers into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of about 310 miles (500 kilometers).

SuperView-1 03 and SuperView-1 04 (also known as GaoJing-1 03 and GaoJing-1 04), are the last two out of four satellites of the first generation of the SuperView constellation. They are both identical spacecraft, built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). The satellites are based on the CAST3000B platform and are fitted with two deployable solar arrays.

The pair of the newest SuperView-1 spacecraft will be operated by the Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd. They will provide imagery with 1.64-foot (0.5-meter) panchromatic resolution and 6.56-foot (2-meter) multispectral (blue, green, red, near-infrared) resolution.

First pair of SuperView-1 satellites was launched on December 28, 2016, however some problems occurred during the separation of the duo from a Long March 2D booster, what resulted in placing the spacecraft in a lower orbit then planned. The orbit was finally corrected in mid-January 2017.

The plan for the SuperView-1 quartet is to have the four satellites phased 90 degrees from each other on the same orbit to collect imagery for clients worldwide. The satellites are designed to work in multiple collection modes including long strip, multiple strips collect, multiple-point targets collect, and stereo imaging. They are expected to deliver highly detailed imagery for precise map creation, change detection, and in-depth image analysis.

"The SuperView-1 constellation works in multiple modes, such as imaging at nadir, rolling imaging, long strip, multiple strip collect, multiple target collect and stereo imaging," the SuperView-1 brochure states.

SuperView-1 spacecraft feature a data collection capability of two terabytes of storage on board and, if in the proper orbit, are able to obtain images covering 270,300 square miles (700,000 square kilometers) across the globe per day.

The full SuperView constellation will consist of 24 Earth-observing satellites planned to be orbited by 2022. China hopes that the network will become one of the world's largest commercial providers of space imagery and geospatial data.

The Long March 2D launcher that will be employed for Tuesday’s flight is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. It is mainly used to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO). The 135 feet (41.15 meters) tall booster can launch payloads of up to 3.5 metric tons to LEO and has an 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.

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