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China plans to launch 11 weather satellites by 2020 to better analyze the climate, monitor natural hazards and forecast weather, according to a national meteorological satellite development plan.
The plan, released on Wednesday by the China Meteorological Administration, states that about 22 billion yuan ($3.4 billion) will be invested into the satellite program.
“The program will largely improve the country’s weather forecast capacity and reduce economic losses caused by extreme weather events,” said Yang Jun, director of the National Satellite Meteorological Center.
He said all 11 satellites are operational and experimental satellites will also be launched, but there are no details available on the number of experimental satellites.
According to the plan, from 2012 to 2020 China will launch one weather satellite every year, except in 2012 and 2019, when it will launch two. The satellites launched in 2019 will include one to monitor precipitation.
“The precipitation-monitoring satellite will help the country avoid the sort of damage caused by rainstorms, like what Beijing residents experienced in July,” Yang said.
Devastating floods caused by torrential rain claimed 79 lives in the capital on July 21.
Frequent natural disasters and growing environmental awareness has led to increasing demand for weather data, such as PM2.5, meaning particulate matter in the air that is smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, Yang said.
Li Qing, an engineer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, said the coming 10 years will be a peak period for the country’s development of weather satellite technology.
China is accelerating its pace of research and development in satellite technologies and broadening international cooperation.
The China Meteorological Administration and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites in Germany has shared data from FY-3B, a Chinese polar-orbiting satellite, available to users in Europe and beyond, since January.
The country will also have talks with countries including the United States and Canada on research and development of the satellite design and data processing to boost China’s satellite development, according to the plan.
China has launched 12 weather satellites in the Fengyun series since 1988, including six satellites in polar orbits and six in geosynchronous orbit. Currently there are seven weather satellites in operation.
Although 11 additional satellites will be in operation by 2020, Yang is not satisfied, and said the more weather satellites launched, the more reliable can the weather forecast be.