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Long March 4C orbits trio of Gaofen-1 Earth-observing satellites

Long March 4C launches with the Gaofen-1 trio. Photo Credit: Xu Chuenlei/Xinhua

Long March 4C launches with the Gaofen-1 trio. Photo Credit: Xu Chuenlei/Xinhua

A Long March 4C rocket took to the skies in an unannounced launch to deliver a triplet of Gaofen-1 Earth-observing satellites for China. Liftoff occurred at 11:22 p.m. EDT March 30 (3:22 GMT March 31), 2018, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the country’s Shanxi Province.

Details regarding pre-launch preparation as well as the flight have not been disclosed by Beijing. However, the success of the mission was confirmed by the state-run Xinhua press agency some 12 hours after liftoff. 

“China on Saturday launched three Gaofen-1 imaging satellites as part of the country’s high-definition earth observation project,” Xinhua wrote on its website.

The Gaofen-1 02, 03 and 04 satellites were delivered into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of approximately 400 miles (645 kilometers).

Developed by China Spacesat, a subsidiary of China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), Gaofen-1 (gaofen means “high-resolution” in Chinese) satellites are based on the CAST2000 platform. Each of the three Gaofen-1 spacecraft launched weighs around 1,775 pounds (805 kilograms) and features two deployable solar arrays.

Gaofen-1 satellites are equipped in 6.5-feet (2-meter) resolution CCD cameras, 26.2-feet (8-meter) resolution multi-spectrum imagers, and 52.4-feet (16-meter) multi-spectrum imagers. According to Xinhua, these instruments will be used for a variety of purposes including disaster warning, ecological protection, infrastructure construction, transportation and emergency response.

The newly launched Gaofen-1 trio has a expected lifetime of six years. The spacecraft will work together with the Gaofen-1 01 satellite launched into orbit in April 2013.

Gaofen satellites are part of the China High-Resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS) initiated in 2010. The system plans to provide real-time, all-day global Earth observation in any weather for disaster prevention and relief, climate change monitoring, geographical mapping, as well as environmental and resource surveying.

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. The primary data users of the program are China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Ministry of Agriculture.

The Long March 4C booster employed for Saturday’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 into a geostationary transfer orbit. In order to deliver the Gaofen-1 trio into space, the rocket was flying in a configuration with an extra-extended payload fairing.

Saturday’s launch was the 270th orbital flight of the Long March rocket series overall and the 10th mission for China this year.

Video courtesy of SciNews

 

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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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