China Pushing Ahead on Hi-Res Satellite System

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PARIS — China’s push into high-resolution optical Earth observation through its seven-satellite CHEOS system is slightly delayed but will see the launch of a second satellite this year and three more satellites by 2016, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The China High-Resolution Earth Observation System, whose first satellite, Gaofen-1, was launched in April 2013 aboard a Chinese Long March 2D rocket, includes airborne instruments and what CNSA calls a “near-space airship,” apparently a high-altitude balloon, equipped with optical, laser and synthetic-aperture radar payloads, CNSA said.

In a presentation to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, whose Scientific and Technical Subcommittee met Feb. 10-21 in Vienna, CNSA said the satellite component of CHEOS has a 1-meter ground resolution at nadir. A similar presentation of the system in October said the system could provide 80-centimeter resolution.

The Gaofen satellites, using the CAST-2000 platform built by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, operate at between 600 and 700 kilometers in orbit and have a design life of between five and eight years.

“The in-orbit test demonstrates that the performance of GF-1 meets the design requirements completely,” CNSA said in its presentation. GF-1 imagery was sent to Pakistan to help that nation’s disaster-response system after an earthquake.

Chinese officials have said their slow but steady progress in optical Earth observation, where they concede they remain behind other nations’ developments, ultimately will help them reduce their imports of higher-resolution imagery.

 

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