Long March 4C orbits Gaofen 5 high-resolution Earth-observing satellite
One of China’s Long March 4C boosters took to the skies on Tuesday, May 8 to orbit Gaofen 5 – the country’s newest high-resolution Earth-observation satellite.
The rocket lifted off at 18:28 GMT (2:28 p.m. EDT) from Launch Complex 9 at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) in China’s Shanxi Province.
Very little is known about the flight that delivered Gaofen 5 into orbit as Beijing usually remains tight lipped when it comes to the nation’s space efforts. What is known is that the launch vehicle inserted the spacecraft into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of about 438 miles (705 kilometers).
Tuesday’s flight was originally scheduled to take place in September of 2017, but was postponed to April 2018 and then delayed an additional month. Chinese media have not revealed what forced the officials to reschedule the launch.
Developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), Gaofen 5 is a hyperspectral imaging satellite designed for Earth observation purposes. The spacecraft is based on the SAST-5000B bus and is fitted with one deployable solar array.
According to Tong Xudong, director of the Earth Observation System and the Data Center of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Gaofen 5 is capable of obtaining spectral information from ultraviolet to long-wave infrared radiation. This should allow the spacecraft to survey inland waters and mineral resources as well as to perform monitoring air pollutants, greenhouse gases and aerosol particles.
Gaofen 5 is designed to be operational for eight years. During that time it is designed to collect data using its six instruments onboard, namely: the Advanced Hyperspectral Imager (AHSI), Visual and Infrared Multispectral Sensor (VIMS), Greenhouse-gases Monitoring Instrument (GMI), Atmospheric Infrared Ultraspectral (AIUS), Environment Monitoring Instrument (EMI) and Directional Polarization Camera (DPC).
The first Gaofen satellite was launched in April of 2013. The next spacecraft in the series, Gaofen 6, is currently planned to be orbited on June 12, 2018.
Gaofen satellites are part of the China High-Resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS). The system is planned to provide real-time, all-day global Earth observation under any weather conditions.
The CHEOS program comprises the elements of China’s space-borne, near-space, aerial and ground systems as well as application systems and brings them together as a whole to carry out Earth observations 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 Long March 4C booster that was used for Tuesday’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 to a geostationary transfer orbit.
Tuesday’s launch marked the 274th flight in the Long March rocket family overall and the 14th launch for China this year. Beijing’s next mission is currently scheduled to take place on May 21 when a Long March 4C is poised to launch the country’s Chang’e 4 lunar mission and two DSLWP-A radio astronomy spacecraft.
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.