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Credit: XinHuaNet

Credit: XinHuaNet

China launches new environmental monitoring satellite

As part of their high-resolution Earth observation project, China launched the Gaofen-5 hyperspectral imaging satellite. Designed and developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, it is expected to have an 8-year lifespan and will be used for comprehensive environmental monitoring.

Launched on 9 May 2018 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province, it is the latest of 15 satellite launches that China has made this year.

Employing an array of advanced observation payloads, it will deliver crucial information about air pollution in the Chinese atmosphere. The Gaofen-5, China’s first locally developed satellite of its kind, will achieve this by obtaining spectral information from ultraviolet to long-wave infrared radiation. The new satellite boasts the highest spectral resolution among China’s remote sensing arsenal. Using this advanced spectral imaging technology, the satellite will also be able to investigate material composition from orbit.

According to the project’s Chief Designer Tong Xudong, it is the world’s first full-spectrum hyperspectral satellite for comprehensive observation of the atmosphere and land. “The Gaofen-5 is equipped with six newly-developed observation loads such as the shortwave infrared hyperspectral camera and a greenhouse gas detector. Once in orbit, it will dynamically reflect the state of pollution in China through the monitoring of atmospheric pollutant gases, greenhouse gases, aerosols and other physical elements," he explained.

Wang Qiao, Deputy Chief Engineer and Director of the Satellite Environmental Application Centre of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment suggested that the satellite, in addition to environmental monitoring, will also play a role in resource exploration, and disaster prevention and mitigation in China. It will be used to detect inland water bodies, land surface ecological environment, altered minerals, and rock minerals. Notably, it provides crucial high-quality hyperspectral data — mitigating China’s dependence on foreign sources for such data.

Chief Designer Tong added that the Gaofen-5’s cutting edge spectral imaging technology is even capable of detecting the composition of substances. This will be a considerable upgrade from conventional high-resolution satellites that use optical imaging and can only deliver information about the shape and size of observed materials.

Started in 2010, the Gaofen project has successfully launched 5 satellites to date and intends to launch a sixth later this year. China plans to form a constellation once all six are in orbit.

Image Credit: XinHuaNet

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