Long March 2D to send a duo of SuperView-1 satellites into orbit
China is gearing up to conduct its first orbital flight of 2018. The mission, scheduled for Tuesday, January 9, will employ a Long March 2D booster to send two SuperView-1 Earth-observing satellites into space.
The rocket is currently scheduled to lift off at around 3:20 GMT (10:20 p.m. EST on January 8) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) located in China’s Shanxi Province.
The launch of SuperView-1 duo opens up what could be a busy 2018 launch manifest for China. The nation has plans to fly some 35-40 orbital missions. Among the flights of communications and Earth-observing satellites, Beijing also aims to launch this year the Chang’e 4 lander – the first spacecraft to attempt a soft landing on far side of the Moon. The country is also working toward the debut of its new light-lift launcher, Kuaizhou-11, and plans to perform the first orbital launch from a sea platform as well.
Preparations for the launch of the two newest SuperView-1 satellites started in November of last year (2017), with the liftoff initially scheduled for December 25. However, China decided to launch a Long March 2C from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center instead, and postponed the flight of the Long March 2D by two weeks.
As is typical for most Chinese space missions, very little information has been made available about the launch and about the flight’s timeline. The Long March 2D rocket will most likely fly for about 10 minutes in order to send its two passengers into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of about 310 miles (500 kilometers).
SuperView-1 03 and SuperView-1 04 (also known as GaoJing-1 03 and GaoJing-1 04), are the final two of four satellites of the first generation of the SuperView constellation. They are identical spacecraft, built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). The satellites are based on the CAST3000B platform and are fitted with two deployable solar arrays.
If everything goes as it is currently planned, the pair of newest SuperView-1 spacecraft will be operated by the Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd. They will provide imagery with 1.64-foot (0.5-meter) panchromatic resolution and 6.56-foot (2-meter) multispectral (blue, green, red, near-infrared) resolution.
The first pair of SuperView-1 satellites were launched on December 28, 2016, however some problems occurred during the separation of the duo from a Long March 2D booster, that resulted in the spacecraft being placed into a lower-than-intended orbit. The issue was finally corrected in mid-January of 2017.
The plan for the SuperView-1 quartet is to have the four satellites phased 90 degrees from each other on the same orbit to collect imagery for clients worldwide. The satellites are designed to work in multiple collection modes including long strip, multiple strips collect, multiple-point targets collect, and stereo imaging. They are expected to deliver highly-detailed imagery for precise map creation, change detection, and in-depth image analysis.
“The SuperView-1 constellation works in multiple modes, such as imaging at nadir, rolling imaging, long strip, multiple strip collect, multiple target collect and stereo imaging,” the SuperView-1 brochure states.
The SuperView-1 spacecraft feature a data collection capability of two terabytes of storage on board and, if in the proper orbit, are able to obtain images covering 270,300 square miles (700,000 square kilometers) across the globe per day.
The full SuperView constellation is planned to consist of 24 Earth-observing satellites that will be orbited by 2022. China hopes that the network will become one of the world’s largest commercial providers of space imagery and geospatial data.
The Long March 2D launcher that has been selected for Tuesday’s flight is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. It is mainly used to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO). The 135 foot (41.15 meters) tall booster can launch payloads of up to 3.5 metric tons to LEO and has an SSO capability of up to 1.3 metric tons.
The rocket was launched for the first time on Aug. 9, 1992, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing FSW-2-1 recoverable satellite.
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