Sunday, April 1, 2018

Long March 4C Orbits a Trio of Gaofen-1 Earth-Observing Satellites

Long March 4C launches with Gaofen-1 trio on March 31. Photo Credit: Xu Chuenlei/Xinhua

A Long March 4C rocket took to the skies on Saturday, March 31, delivering a triplet of Gaofen-1 Earth-observing satellites for China. The liftoff occurred at 3:22 GMT (11:22 EDT on Friday, March 30) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Shanxi Province.

The mission was unannounced by Chinese media and details regarding pre-launch preparation as well as the flight have not been disclosed by Beijing.

The Gaofen-1 02, 03 and 04 satellites were delivered into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of approximately 400 miles (645 kilometers). The success of the mission was confirmed by the state-run Xinhua press agency some 12 hours after the liftoff.

“China on Saturday launched three Gaofen-1 imaging satellites as part of the country's high-definition earth observation project,” Xinhua wrote on its website.

Developed by China Spacesat, a subsidiary of China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), Gaofen-1 (gaofen means high-resolution in Chinese) satellites are based on the CAST2000 platform. Each of the three Gaofen-1 spacecraft launched on Saturday, weighs around 1,775 lbs. (805 kilograms) and features two deployable solar arrays.

Gaofen-1 satellites are equipped in 6.5-feet (2-meter) resolution CCD cameras, 26.2-feet (8-meter) resolution multi-spectrum imagers, and 52.4-feet (16-meter) multi-spectrum imagers. According to Xinhua, these instruments will be used for a variety of purposes including disaster warning, ecological protection, infrastructure construction, transportation and emergency response.

The newly launched Gaofen-1 trio has a designed lifetime of six years. The spacecraft will work together with the Gaofen-1 01 satellite launched into orbit in April 2013.

Gaofen satellites are part of the China High-Resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS) initiated in 2010. The system plans to provide real-time, all-day global Earth observation in any weather for disaster prevention and relief, climate change monitoring, geographical mapping, as well as environmental and resource surveying.

The CHEOS program comprises the elements of the space-borne system, the near-space system, aerial system, the ground system, and application system as a whole to realize Earth observation at high temporal, spatial, and spectral resolution. The primary data users of the program are the Ministry of Land and Resources, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Long March 4C booster employed for Saturday’s launch has a liftoff mass of an estimated 250 metric tons and is 150 feet (54.7 meters) in length with a diameter of 11 feet (3.4 meters). It is capable of delivering payloads of up to 4.2 metric tons to LEO, 2.8 metric tons to SSO, and up to 1.5 metric tons into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). In order to deliver the Gaofen-1 trio into space, the launch vehicle was flying in a configuration with an extra-extended payload fairing.

Saturday’s launch was the 270th orbital flight of the Long March rocket series overall and the 10th mission for China this year.

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