Spaceflight Insider

China launches Gaofen-9 remote sensing satellite

Long March 2D launch of Gaofen-9 satellite

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Gaofen-9 satellite blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China’s Gansu Province, on Sept. 14, 2015. (Click to enlarge) Photo Credit: Xinhua / Zhao Yingquan

China conducted its second launch in a 37-hour time span by blasting off a Long March 2D rocket with the Gaofen-9 Earth observation satellite. Liftoff took place at 12:42 a.m. EDT (04:42 GMT) on Monday, Sept. 14, from the Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu.

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Gaofen-9 satellite, blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province on Sept. 14, 2015.

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Gaofen-9 satellite soars into the air on Sept. 14, 2015. Photo Credit: Xinhua / Zhao Yingquan

The mission of Gaofen-9 will be similar to the Gaofen-8 launched in June of this year. Both spacecraft are leftover military satellites being turned over to a semi-civilian role.

The Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported that the Gaofen-9 spacecraft is a remote sensing satellite, capable of providing photographs with a resolution of less than 1 meter (3.3 ft). It will be used for land survey, urban planning, road network design, agriculture, and disaster relief.

“Developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, Gaofen-9 can also serve key national strategies such as the Belt and Road Initiative and national defense,” Xinhua added.

The Gaofen-9 satellite is based on the compact CAST-2000 platform. It is a civilian version of the Yaogan 2 type military reconnaissance satellite.

The satellite was placed into a nearly circular orbit averaging about 397 miles (639 kilometers), at an inclination of some 98 degrees.

The Gaofen satellites are part of the China High-Resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS). The system plans to provide real-time, all-day global Earth observation in any weather.

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.

By 2020, it is hoped that the entire seven-satellite CHEOS system should be in orbit. 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 first Gaofen satellite was launched in April 2013.

The Long March 2D, used for Monday’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 Sun-synchronous orbit capability of up to 1.3 metric tons.

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

Monday’s flight was the 222nd Chinese orbital launch and the 209th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the 78th orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the 1st launch from this space center in 2015 and the 6th orbital launch for China this year.

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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