China launches Haiyang oceanography satellite

China launches Haiyang oceanography satellite

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A Long March 4B rocket takes off Sept. 21 from the Jiuquan launch base in northwestern China. Credit: Xinhua

A Chinese oceanography satellite designed to measure wave height and winds launched Monday aboard a Long March 4B rocket geared up with grid fins to assist manage the very first phase’s descent back to Earth, an improvement targeted at keeping falling boosters away from Chinese villages.

The Haiyang 2C oceanography satellite took off at 0540 GMT (1: 40 a.m. EDT; 1: 40 p.m. Beijing time) Monday from the Juiquan launch base in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China. A three-stage, liquid-fueled Long March 4B rocket brought the Haiyang 2C spacecraft into orbit.

The satellite separated from the Long March 4B’s 3rd phase about 12 minutes after liftoff, going into an orbit around 580 miles (935 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 66 degrees to the equator.

Haiyang 2C joins another Chinese oceanography satellite– Haiyang 2B– in orbit to enable greater tracking of the maritime environment. China’s earlier Haiyang ocean-monitoring satellites introduced into polar orbits customized for global coverage, but Chinese officials launched Haiyang 2C into a lower-inclination orbit to enable the satellite to cover area regularly.

Constructed by the China Academy of Space Technology, a state-owned aerospace specialist, the Haiyang 2C satellite carries a radar altimeter and microwave scatterometer to determine the height of waves and display maritime wind field. The spacecraft also carries a payload to track ships and a data collection system to relay measurements from ocean buoys to forecast centers and other users.

The Haiyang 2C satellite. Credit: CAST

China plans to introduce its next oceanography satellite, Haiyang 2D, in 2021.

The Haiyang satellite series is named for the Chinese word for “ocean.”

China operates two families of Haiyang satellites– the Haiyang 1-series and Haiyang 2-series– that carry different sets of oceanography instruments. The current member of the Haiyang 1 household, Haiyang 1D, launched in June with imaging sensors to measure ocean color, information which officials stated will assist track pollution and natural ocean constituents such as chlorophyll.

Four aerodynamic fins flew on the very first stage of the expendable Long March 4B rocket. Chinese officials said the fins, which have flown on some previous Long March rockets, are developed at narrowing the drop zone for the very first phase after stage separation roughly two-and-a-half minutes after launch.

A lot of Chinese rockets launch from land-locked spaceports in the interior of the country, and their spent rocket phases fall back to the ground over land. Some Chinese boosters land unrestrained near towns, and videos shared on Chinese social networks have actually shown clouds of poisonous propellants hovering near homes, schools, and roads.

The four grid fins are planned to give authorities more certainty about where the rockets will land, according to Chinese news reports.

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