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China To Launch Micro Imaging Birds

eye in the sky
by Wei Long
Beijing - Nov. 20 2000
China is developing two new microsats that will likely be launched in the near future, Xinhua News Agency reported on Nov. 3.

During the Shanghai Science and Technology Forum, space officials revealed that various government and university institutions began research and development of the two microsats.

The institutions involving in the two projects include the No. 5 research institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Tsinghua University in here, and Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in the northeastern Heilongjiang Province.

The Microsat Project Department of CAS in Shanghai steers the research effort of the microsat Chuangxin-1 (CX-1, Chuangxin means "innovation") while HIT leads the development of the other microsat Tansuo-1 (TS-1, Tansuo means "exploration").

The space officials did not disclose a timeline of when the two microsats might be launched.

As a key research program of the national "863 Plan", TS-1 is the first domestically designed and developed microsat. The 150 kg remote sensing satellite will be launched into a 600 km orbit to map the Earth and monitor natural disasters. The satellite uses integrated design and manufacturing technologies, and carries a linear array of three CCD survey cameras which will transmit images with a resolution of 10 m and an image swath of 120 km wide.

The two new microsats will likely be launched on China's next generation of smaller rockets. Both solid and liquid propellant rockets are currently under development.

The recently formed company Space Solid Fuel Rocket Carrier Co. Ltd. (SSRC), which is composed of five government departments and State-run corporations, is in charge of research, development, production and marketing of the solid propellant rocket, called Kaituozhe-1 (KTZ-1, Kaituozhe means "trailblazer").

Development of KTZ-1, with a payload capacity of 100 kg for polar orbits, is expected to complete by 2001 and ready for launch in 2002.

Separately the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) and the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST, formerly the Shanghai Space Bureau) are developing a small liquid propellant rocket.

China's experience in mini- and microsatellites began less than two years ago. In May 1999 China launched the 297 kg minisat Shijian-5 (SJ-5, Shijian means "practice"), which carried experiments on microgravity fluid and space physics.

In June this year the 50 kg microsat Tsinghua-1, China's first microsatellite, was launched aboard a Russian rocket. A joint project between the Tsinghua University and the University of Surrey in U.K., Tsinghua-1 has returned many Earth observations images since achieving orbit.

Both the Tsinghua University and the Harbin Institute of Technology are particularly active in the expanding field of microsatellites. Since 1997 HIT began research work on microsats. In late June this year Tsinghua University and several high-tech companies formed the Aerospace Tsinghua Satellite Technology Co. Ltd. (ATST), with a focus on developing microsats and detector technologies, and marketing their applications.

Xinhua reported that China would use microsats in data transmission, environment monitoring, space environment observations, positioning and navigation, and science experimentation.

According to the space officials, the attractiveness of microsats is their low investment and operational costs, flexibility in making changes, and short system development cycles.

These advantages are drawing the attention of the Chinese military branch. An analysis published on July 12 in the People's Liberation Army Daily suggested that China could deploy a network of microsats for global reconnaissance.

The analysis wrote: " ... Each microsat has a large computational capability. Tens, or even hundreds, of these microsats can be networked to form a 'skynet', which would provide a carpeted global coverage and thus realizing high-altitude military reconnaissance with no 'dead zones'.

"A trend is developing with more recon satellites that are placed in low- and medium-orbits instead of high-orbits and unmanned aerial recon flights that are shifted to low-orbit space operation. Integrating all the benefits [of these two types of recon mode] would give space superpowers a new mutlilayers space reconnaissance system.

"The advantages of such a system include rendering an enemy's space defense mode deficient, and providing a global coverage of information transmission which allows total area monitoring and more timely data management and dissemination of imagery."

The analysis further said that conceivably hundreds or thousands of these microsats, and the smaller nanosats, would be launched by microlaunchers into orbits.

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China Microsat Performs Well; Nanosat Is Next
Beijing - August 22, 2000
China's first microsatellite Tsinghua-1 is performing without problems, says Tsinghua University here. On June 28 a Russian Kosmos-3M rocket launched the microsat from the Plesestk Cosmodrome in northern Russia to a polar sunsynchronous orbit of 700 km.

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