China launches Two Satellites
China’s record-breaking year of launches continues in recent days with the launch of two satellites into orbit.
The two new satellites launched on different rockets from different space centres, but they share the same name, Gaofen (“high resolution”). While each will survey the Earth, their roles and users will differ.
On Monday (Nov. 22), at 5:45 p.m. EST (2245 GMT, 7:45 a.m. local time Nov. 23), orange flames lit up the pre-dawn sky over Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert as the engines of a Long March 4C rocket ignited.
The Gaofen 3 (02) radar Earth monitoring satellite was on board, and it climbed to a sun synchronous orbit of 469 miles (755 kilometres) above Earth. Because of the satellite’s unique orbit, which virtually crosses over the planet’s poles, it is always the same local solar time when it passes over any location on Earth.
Gaofen 3 (02) joins the first Gaofen 3 satellite, which China launched into a comparable orbit in August 2016, to establish a radar constellation that studies both land and sea. Marine disaster prevention and mitigation, dynamic marine environment monitoring, environmental protection, water conservation, agriculture, and meteorology will all benefit from the duo.
On-orbit Testing Responsibility
On-orbit testing will be handled by China’s National Satellite Ocean Application Center, which is part of the Ministry of Natural Resources, as well as other agencies. The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) built the satellite, which has improvements over the original Gaofen 3, such as improved photography, improved ship-positioning technology. This also included real-time onboard processing, which makes imagery available much faster than raw data transmission.
The China High-resolution Earth Observation System is made up of Gaofen satellites, which are optical and radar remote sensing satellites (CHEOS). The first satellite, Gaofen 1, was launched in 2013 after the programme was approved in 2010.
Many of the Gaofen satellites, as well as their civilian uses, have been revealed. However, information about Gaofen satellites with a higher number is secret.
China launched a payload like this just days before Gaofen 3 (02). On Friday, November 19th, at 8:51 p.m. EST, the mysterious Gaofen 11 (03) satellite launched on 20th Nov. As the Long March 4B rocket rose from its launch pad at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China and into hazy skies, insulation tiles atop the rocket began to fall away.
China currently has three Gaofen 11 satellites, with the latest one joining predecessors launched in 2018 and 2020, the latter of which saw a rocket stage land near a school. The National Reconnaissance Office of the United States is in charge of a constellation of secret spy satellites orbiting the Earth.
China’s 44th and 45th orbital launches in 2021 broke a national record for orbital launches in a calendar year. In comparison, the United States has launched 44 times, including five times from New Zealand with Rocket Lab’s Electron.