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China to launch “seed satellite”

Zhang Qingwei, president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp said, “Nine satellites, including one that will carry seeds, are set to be launched into space this year.” The first one a scientific experimental satellite would blast off at the end of April.

For the first time, the country will send into orbit a “seed satellite” specially designed for seed-breeding in space, he said. It is scheduled for September.

The recoverable satellite will enable scientists to try to cultivate high-yield and high-quality plant varieties after the seeds are exposed to special environments such as cosmic radiation and micro-gravity.

Zhang said another important satellite to be put into space in 2006 is SinoSat 2, the country’s first direct broadcasting satellite, which is expected to beam TV programmes to even the most remote rural regions in the country. He said SinoSat 2 will be based on the country’s newest generation of satellite platform Dongfanghong 4, which has a designed life mission of 15 years.

Other satellites in the pipeline include a meteorological satellite and oceanic satellite that will monitor ocean colour and red tides.