A minisatellite designed and assembled by a Chinese space startup, Commsat Technology Development Co, blasted off on Feb 2 afternoon, which the designers say will enable thousands of students to track and help control the spacecraft.
The 3-kilogram CubeSat, named Young Pioneer I, was launched atop a Long March 2D carrier rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China along with six other satellites.
The miniature spacecraft has a designed life span of a year in a sun-synchronous orbit and when its batteries are expended, it will burn up on re-entry into the atmosphere, said Xie Tao, founder and CEO of Commsat.
He said the satellite has equipment to take pictures and allow students access to long distance communication technology.
The satellite was part of the China Youngster Minisatellite Project initiated by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, China Association for Science and Technology and the Chinese Society of Education. The project aims to popularize astronomical sciences among youth.
To help students study astronomy and track the minisatellite, a main ground station was built at the China Soong Ching Ling Science and Culture Center for Young People in Beijing.
Some 10 substations have been established in schools across the country, including Beijing No 4 High School and Wenchang Middle School in Wenchang, Hainan province－seat of China’s southernmost satellite launch center, the company said.
All the ground stations, converted from science labs, are managed by teachers who received training from the company. Schools pay for the training sessions for teachers and students, station equipment and teaching aids such as actual size CubeSat models, it said.
The minisatellite also carries commercial projects, such as testing technology in space.
Peng Yuanyuan, co-founder and chief operating officer of Commsat, said schools with such ground stations can offer courses that popularize knowledge about satellite tracking and control. “The course could stimulate students’ interest,” she said.
Tan Lichuan, who teaches sciences at Wenchang Middle School, said the program also fosters students’ ability to figure things out for themselves and promotes a positive perception of engineering.
“It supplements classroom education and offers them more learning opportunities,” he said.
In 2016, Bayi Youngsters ‘Expedition－Chinese teenagers’ first satellite－was developed by Beijing’s Bayi School with help from scientists.