2015 has been a good year for the space industry across the world and now China have closed out the year with a landmark launch of their own. Today they successfully launched the Gaofen-4 satellite as part of the country’s high-definition Earth observation project.
Gaofen-4 was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Chinese province of Sichuan. The launch took place on the 29th of December at 00:04AM local time. Carrying the satellite into orbit was a Long March-3B carrier rocket. According to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), this is the 222nd launch of a Long March family rocket, which have been in operation since the 1970s and the 19th mission this year.
The successful launch of Gaofen-4 is a significant step in China’s HD Earth observation project, as it has unique capabilities as China’s first geosynchronous orbit HD optical imaging satellite, featuring visible light and infra-red staring optical imager with a common optical system. Gaofen-4 differs greatly from the Gaofen-1 and -2 satellites, which both hold low orbits of 600-700km from the earth, which 4 will orbit as far as 36,000 km away in a geosynchronous orbit. It is due to its advanced imaging systems that it can be placed at a distant orbit, without issue, reportedly being able to spot oil tankers in the sea with its optics. The purpose of the data gathered by Gaofen-4 can be applied in a number of ways, including disaster prediction and monitoring, weather prediction, agriculture monitoring and even national security. This isn’t the end of China’s satellite endeavors either, as Gaofen-4 is only the third satellite of seven planned to be launched by 2020.
We can only hope that the space agencies around the world continue their efforts into 2016, as if they can continue to top 2015, the future is bright for the myriad of space projects.
Image credit to Xinhua/Yue Yubin