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China launches new environmental monitoring satellite

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