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Launch to pave way for remote-sensing network

By ZHAO LEI in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-24 10:17
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China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, one of the country's major space contractors, plans to launch the first satellite of a massive remote-sensing network in the coming months, a project manager said.

Zhang Chuan, from CASIC Space Engineering Development, a CASIC subsidiary in Beijing leading the project, said the first satellite in the Chutian Remote-Sensing Satellite Network is scheduled to be put into orbit before July.

Remote-sensing satellites are tasked with observing, surveying and measuring objects on Earth, as well as monitoring weather and other atmospheric elements.

"The satellite will carry optical remote-sensing imagers, data processors, atomic oxygen sensors and other mission payloads, and will be used to demonstrate extra-low orbit remote-sensing technologies such as aerodynamic design, atom oxygen-resistance system and satellite-mounted intelligence," Zhang said in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Monday.

"If the first satellite works well, we will launch nine more of the same type to the same orbit before the end of 2025 to verify networking technologies and establish a trial-run system that can respond to users' requests for data in 24 hours."

Starting in 2026, Zhang's company plans to deploy vast groups of Chutian satellites to begin the large-scale in-orbit construction of the system.

Upon its scheduled completion around 2030, the space-based network will have 300 remote-sensing satellites operating in extra-low orbits, which have altitudes of less than 300 kilometers, and will be able to obtain optical pictures, radar data, and hyperspectral and infrared images, Zhang said.

By that time, the network will be capable of mapping and surveying any given place in the world within 15 minutes after receiving users' requests, he said.

The Chutian network will be tasked with providing public services in fields such as emergency response and rescue, and disaster prevention and relief, and will also be used to carry out real-time, high-resolution observation of designated areas and specific targets in accordance with users' requests, Zhang said.

Satellites flying in extra-low orbit are closer to Earth, can produce pictures with higher definition at lower cost, and can transmit them back to Earth in less time. They also weigh less, and their production costs are lower, according to satellite designers at CASIC Space Engineering Development.

Li Yanbin, deputy general manager of the company, said that current remote-sensing products in China are far from sufficient to meet the demands from emergency response and rescue and disaster relief operations, which require timely and low-cost data support.

"Our satellite network is what they really need — it will provide rapid, reliable acquisition of high-precision data and images," he said. "Moreover, its operations will unleash the tremendous potential in businesses related to commercial remote-sensing services and may even break new ground in the space industry."

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