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Construction begins on weather satellite network

By Zhao Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-06 09:59
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The CERES 1 Y9 carrier rocket carrying two new satellites blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China, Dec 5, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Cultivate Space, a Beijing-based private satellite company, has begun construction on a meteorological satellite network, according to a company executive.

The first satellite in the network, Tianyan 16, was launched on Tuesday by a Ceres 1 carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Gobi Desert.

The Tianyan 16 is a meteorological satellite equipped with passive microwave detection equipment. Working in a low-Earth orbit of about 500 kilometers, it can measure the vertical layers of atmospheric temperature and humidity, and can also survey precipitation, sea surface pressure and the structure of typhoons.

Yu Weixue, chief technology officer of Cultivate Space, told China Daily after the launch that in the near future, the company wants to deploy a total of 45 meteorological satellites, including the Tianyan 16, in orbit to form a vast space-based network. All of the satellites will have similar devices like those on Tianyan 16.

"Upon the network's completion, it will be able to obtain global data in only 30 minutes," he said.

"We have planned to launch three satellites via a single rocket flight before July 2024. If everything goes according to plan, another three satellites will be launched before the end of next year. All of the new craft will join the Tianyan 16 to establish a network."

The main payload on the Tianyan 16 satellite, a microwave radiometer, has an operational frequency of more than 100 gigahertz and a very high level of sensitivity, which means it is the best of its kind in China and boasts world-class capability, according to Yu.

"Data obtained by the spacecraft will help with early warnings for typhoons, downpours and other extreme weather events and will also support research on climate change. After in-orbit functional verification, it will start formal operations and its data products will mainly be used by meteorological authorities," the researcher said, noting the satellite can scan the entire Earth in a matter of several hours.

The Ceres 1 rocket used for Tuesday's launch was designed and made by Galactic Energy, a private rocket maker in Beijing.

Galactic Energy has undertaken 10 successful orbital launch missions with Ceres 1 rockets, far outperforming its private competitors in China. The flights have placed 35 commercial satellites into orbit.

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