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China plans to launch eight satellites providing ocean and land data before 2020, a senior official said on Wednesday.
"The planned satellite launches, including four satellites observing the color of the sea, two observing ocean currents and two maritime radar satellites before 2020, have been approved by the National Development and Reform Commission," Jiang Xingwei, director of the National Satellite Ocean Application Service, told China Daily at the third Digital Ocean Forum in Tianjin.
The new satellites will greatly improve China's ability to observe and supervise the marine environment, he said.
China already has three satellites that monitor its territorial waters and islands, including the Diaoyu Islands and Huangyan Island, but they cannot be used to focus on a fixed location, Jiang said.
The launch of the two maritime radar satellites will add that capability.
Pan Delu, of the State Oceanic Administration's Second Institute of Oceanography, said at the forum that it is urgent China moves forward with the satellite project because the country is at least 10 years behind the satellite technology of developed economies such as the United States.
China is accelerating its pace of research and development of satellite technologies and broadening international cooperation.
On Aug 30, China's National Satellite Ocean Application Service and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites in Germany signed an agreement allowing the exchange of data from their ocean-monitoring satellites. Jiang said that a US organization has shown interest in the data from the Haiyang-2 satellite.
China has three maritime satellites in operation, according to the NSOAS.
Under the country's previous maritime satellite plan, published on the agency's website, three additional series of satellites will be launched: the ocean color (Haiyang-1) series, ocean current (Haiyang-2) series and maritime radar (Haiyang-3) series. Together, they will provide the capacity needed to fully monitor the country's ocean environment and guarantee its maritime rights.
Satellite images and data have widely been used in marine environment monitoring and island protection.
Xia Dengwen, deputy director of the China Oceanic Information Network of the State Oceanic Administration, said the current sea-monitoring is done by some satellites and aircraft.
If more satellites are launched, the system will operate better, said Xia, who is in charge of the system.
After three years of operation, the national sea-monitoring system has gradually expanded its coverage from offshore waters to distant areas, covering about 300,000 square kilometers of ocean, according to the State Oceanic Administration.
Xia said satellite images and data provide important information used by China Marine Surveillance in monitoring the legitimate and illegal use of the oceans, helping authorities adjust the annual national sea-use plan.
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