The future of the ability of China to tackle Earth observation keeps getting brighter. This finding comes after yet another successful launch of a satellite on Tuesday. It is a satellite line member comprising high-resolution satellites to boost China’s capabilities in Earth observation. The venue of the launch was Jiuquan, and the lift-off vehicle was a Long March 4C rocket. As for the time, it was Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time.
The hint of this launch was the airspace closure notice. However, other than knowing that there was an upcoming launch, the mission payload and rocket type remained a mystery. The announcement of its success came an hour after the launch, and the statement was made by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC). It also confirmed that the payload was Gaofen-12 (02), whereas the rocket was the Long March 4C.
Information from the U.S. satellite tracking indicates that the rocket lifted the satellite into 94 x 600 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. That orbit is similar to the one of its predecessor, Gaefon-12. It was the first of its line, and the launch took place in December 2019. The satellite is one of the components of the China High-resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS). It is a program that came into existence in 2010. Its objective was the provision of coverage regardless of the time of the day of the weather. Aperture radar satellites, synthetic and optical, were to facilitate that.
According to the country’s media state, its uses include disaster relief, estimating crop yield, designing road network, surveying land, and urban planning. Its developer was the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST). CASC is the primary space contractor in China, and SAST is a subordinate. As far as the mission patch is concerned, there is a background map highlighting the Atlantic Ocean and an eagle.
The Gaofen series comprises many satellites and information about satellite numbers 1 to 7 including their resolution capabilities in the public domain. On the other hand, there is no information for the rest of them starting with the number 8. Therefore, there are high chances that they are about the national defense. However, data from mission control screens show the satellite renders into orbit. From what was seen on the state television, the diameter of the Gaofen-11 is most likely more than 1.5 meters. They are generally large and designed for aperture optical remote sensing.
As far as the Chinese Society for Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Cartography published article is concerned; there is more to the capability of the Gaofen-11. It will be able to return optical imagery and be doing the same at a resolution of about 10 cm. It was the 8th launch by China this year, putting it a step closer to hitting its over 40 target by 2021.