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Science satellite launched into orbit

Zhao Lei
Updated: Dec 30,2015 7:33 AM     China Daily

Gaofen 4 is launched in Xichang, Sichuan province, on Dec 29.[Photo/Xinhua]

China launched an observation satellite early on Dec 29 that will provide weather forecasting as well as images and data from across Southeast Asia for forest monitoring, disaster prevention and other missions.

A rocket carrying the first Gaofen 4 Earth-observation satellite lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province just after midnight and placed the 5-metric ton satellite into orbit. The mission marked the 222nd flight of the Long March rocket family.

After a six-month, in-orbit test, Gaofen 4 will provide images to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the State Forestry Administration, the China Earthquake Administration and the China Meteorological Administration, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, which is in charge of China’s space programs.

China launched the Gaofen project in May 2010 and has listed it as one of 16 key national projects in science and technology.

The first in the system, Gaofen 1, was sent into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia in April 2013. Four more Gaofen satellites were launched last year and this year.

Two other Gaofen satellite missions are scheduled for the next year or so, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The Gaofen Earth-observation satellite system has greatly benefited land resources management, forest surveying and fire prevention, as well as agricultural forecasting, said officials in these fields.

“By now, we have received 695,000 images taken by Gaofen 1 and 239,000 by Gaofen 2 and used them to survey natural resources, locate water sources for border defense units, pinpoint disaster hazards, handle emergencies and monitor urban construction,” said Fang Hongbin, a senior expert of the China Aero Geophysical Survey and Remote Sensing Center of the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Each year, the land and resources ministry needs to use high-definition pictures of 490 places totaling 19 million square kilometers. Before April 2013, when China launched the Gaofen 1 satellite, almost all of those pictures had to be purchased from foreign companies at a huge cost to the ministry, Fang said.

“Now nearly 80 percent of the high-definition images are taken by our Gaofen satellites, which substantially reduces our financial burden and improves our work,” he added. Taking advantage of the Gaofen system, the ministry has made images for all of China’s territories and established a database of the nation’s geographical features and natural resources.