The Chinese Long March 11 rocket launched five Zhuhai satellites


A Long March 11 booster took off on this Thursday carrying five satellites of the Chinese with hyperspectral imaging and video sensors. These five satellites will form a part of the big Earth imaging fleet which is under development by the Zhuhai Orbita Aerospace Science and Technology Co. in Guangdong province of China. The remote sensing network called the Zhuhai 1 constellation will be surveying cities, natural resources, forests, crops and other environmental factors. The goal of Zhuhai is to deploy 34 radar, video, and hyperspectral imaging craft within the next few years.

The five Zhuhai satellites were carried to orbit by the solid-fueled March 11 rocket from the launch base of Jiuqan in the northwest Gobi desert of China. The liftoff was on Thursday at 0442 GMT (12:42 a.m. EDT). The CALT (China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology) confirmed that the mission was a success so far. The mission details were not announced in advance other than some warning to stay clear of the downrange drop zones. The U.S military released the orbital tracking data in which it indicated that the satellite was released to the orbit about 500 kilometers above the surface of the Earth, with a track tilt of 97.4 towards the equator.

Thursday’s launch was the 4th one of the Long March 11 which is comparatively a new member of the rocket fleet of the country. The first flight of the Long March 11 was in September 2015, designed for a faster call-up and lower cost.

The satellites that were launched on Thursday were specifically for hyperspectral imaging. The spacecraft detectors are very sensitive to light in about 32 spectral bands. This allows the camera to collect detailed information about the surface features than any optical equipment developed till now. Each of the five Zhuhai 1 satellite weighs about 100 kilograms at the time of launch.

The satellites have a resolution much better 10 meters and can capture broad images around 150 kilometers. The four crafts all together will be able to provide a global coverage every 5 days. The video imaging craft weighs about 90 kilograms and is known as OVS-2. The resolution of the video imaging instrument is about 90 centimeters and will be able to capture scenes 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) wide from the 310-mile high orbit of the satellite.

The first 2 satellites of Zhuhai was launched in June 2017 atop a Long March 48. Another five Zhuhai 1 satellites have been planned to be launched in the coming months on a Long March 11 rocket.