Monday, October 29, 2018

Long March 2C Sends CFOSat Oceanographic Spacecraft and Seven Smaller Satellites to Orbit

Long March 2C lifts off with CFOSat and seven small satellites on October 29, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua

China sent a Long March 2C booster on Monday, October 29, on a mission to deliver the Chinese-French CFOSat ocean-observing spacecraft and seven smaller payloads into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

The rocket blasted off at 8:43 a.m. local time (0:43 GMT / 8:43 p.m. EDT October 28) from Launch Area 4 (LA-4) at the Jiuquan Satellite Launching Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu Province.

Chinese nor French media outlets are not offering many details about the orbital flight, however given that target orbit was SSO at an altitude of 323 miles (520 kilometers), Long March 2C’s ride to space most likely lasted some 20-30 minutes. French space agency CNES reports that CFOSat deployed its solar array some 32 minutes after orbital insertion.

China’s Xinhua press agency confirmed the success of the launch and orbital injection of CFOSat about 10 hours after liftoff.

“China successfully sent an ocean-observing satellite into space on Monday, a joint mission pursued under close Sino-French space cooperation that will enable scientists to simultaneously study, for the first time, ocean surface winds and waves,” Xinhua noted.

CFOSat (Chinese-French Oceanography Satellite) was built by China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and is based on the CAST2000 bus. The satellite weighs around 1,433 lbs. (650 kilograms) and its dimensions are: 4.6 x 4.6 x 3.9 ft (1.4 x 1.4 x 1.2 meters). Its operational lifetime is three years.

Given that CFOSat’s main goal is to study ocean surface winds and waves, the spacecraft is equipped in two instruments: SWIM (Surface Waves Investigation and Monitoring) and SCAT (wind SCAT terometer). Developed by CNES, SWIM is a near-nadir real-aperture Ku-Band azimuthally scanning radar designed for measuring the directional spectra of ocean waves according. SCAT, provided by China National Space Administration (CNSA), is a vector wind scatterometer.

According to Wang Lili, chief designer of the CFOSat at CAST, SWIM and SCAT will help scientists simultaneously collect data about winds and waves at the same location for the first time.

Data collected by CFOSat are expect to help scientists to achieve more accurate ocean forecasts and give earlier warning of severe weather events like storms and cyclones. The spacecraft would also help climatologists to learn more about exchanges between the oceans and atmosphere.

After the successful launch of CFOSat, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall made remarks about the Chinese-French cooperation on this mission and about the importance of the newly orbited spacecraft.

“We signed a memorandum of understanding in January this year, in the presence of Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping, to step up this cooperation and encourage wide uptake of CFOSat data. These data will be instrumental in the success of the Space Climate Observatory (SCO), one of the flagship measures in the Paris Declaration adopted by the world’s space agencies at the One Planet Summit in December 2017,” he said.

Besides CFOSat, Monday’s mission also orbited seven smaller payloads, namely: Xiaoxiang-1, Zhaojin-1, Tiange-1, Tianfuguoxing-1, Changshagaoxin, Hongyan-1 and CubeBel-1.

Xiaoxiang-1 is a small satellite demonstration mission for Chinese company LaserFleet, which plans to develop a 288 small laser communication satellite constellation in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) to provide broadband internet access.

Zhaojin-1 is a six-unit astrophysics CubeSat developed by the Tsinghua University. It is the first satellite of the constellation of 24 CubeSats designed for studies of gamma-ray bursts and gravitational waves.

Tianfuguoxing-1 CubeSat is a technology demonstrator operated by Guoxing Yuhang (ADA Space), while Changshagaoxin is an amateur radio payload satellite. The purpose of Tiange-1 and Hongyan-1 remains uncertain as Chinese media outlets have not disclosed any information about these two small spacecraft.

The only foreign satellite on the list of small payloads is the CubeBel-1 (also known as BSUSat-1). It is a two-unit CubeSat developed by the Belarusian State University (BSU) and it is planned to serve as a technology demonstrator to test satellite propulsion, communications systems, and data collection.

The Long March 2C booster employed for Monday’s flight is a two-stage rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). The rocket is mainly used to launch satellites into LEO and SSO. The 138-foot (42-meter) tall launch vehicle is capable of lifting payloads of up to 3.85 metric tons to LEO and has an SSO capability of up to 1.4 metric tons.

Monday’s launch marked the 31st orbital mission for China in 2018 and the 289th launch of a Long March rocket overall. Beijing’s next mission is scheduled for November 1 when a Long March 3B booster is expected to orbit the BeiDou-3 G1Q navigation satellite.

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