China’s Gaofen 7 satellite starts operation

A new Earth observation satellite, Gaofen-7, is launched on a Long March-4B rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China's Shanxi Province, Nov. 3, 2019. The Gaofen-7, China's first civil-use optical transmission three-dimensional surveying and mapping satellite that reaches the sub-meter level, will play an important role in land surveying and mapping, urban and rural construction and statistical investigation, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). (Photo by Lu Xing/Xinhua). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BEIJING, Aug 20, 2020, China Daily. China’s best optical Earth-observation satellite for civil use has finished its in-orbit tests and started formal operation on Thursday, China Daily reported.

At a handover ceremony at the China National Space Administration on Thursday morning, designers of the Gaofen 7 announced that the satellite began to serve its major users — the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the National Bureau of Statistics.

Developed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology, the satellite is expected to play an important role in land surveying and mapping, urban and rural planning and statistical investigation, according to the space administration.

With a design life of eight years, the 2.7 metric ton satellite was launched atop a Long March 4B carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in North China’s Shanxi province in November, and is operating about 500 kilometers above the ground.

The satellite is equipped with two types of mission payloads — two line-scan cameras capable of taking 3D images of the Earth, and a laser altimeter used to measure height of objects on the ground.

It successfully went through a succession of tests over the past eight months and has produced and sent back more than 106,000 images, the space administration said.

During its testing period, the satellite helped in the efforts to recalculate the height of Qomolangma, known as Mt Everest in the West, build temporary hospitals in Wuhan for COVID-19 patients, and fight against the floods that ravaged many places in China this summer, it noted.

China launched the Gaofen program in May 2010 and listed it as one of the 16 national important projects in science and technology. The program aims at forming a space-based, high-resolution Earth observation network by 2020. By now, more than 10 Gaofen satellites have been launched and all of them are in active service.

Images and data from the Gaofen satellites have been widely used in more than 20 industries across China and have helped reduce the country’s dependence on foreign remote-sensing products.

The space administration has opened a website to give users around the world access to images and data generated by Gaofen satellites.

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