Beijing, China, 15 December 2006 – China will be able to keep a closer watch on natural resources and disasters with the launch of six satellites in the next five years, officials said. Half of them will be launched next year and the rest are expected to be in place by 2010, according to sources at a gathering to mark the 15th anniversary of the founding of the China Centre for Resources Satellite Data and Application, which closed in Beijing on December 15.
Of the three satellites scheduled for 2007, one is for resources and two are for environmental and disaster monitoring, said Sun Laiyan, Chief of the China National Space Administration. For environmental monitoring and disaster-relief two optical satellites will be launched from one rocket, said Sun, on the sidelines of the two-day gathering.
They will be joined by a radar satellite sometime in the next five years as part of China’s ongoing project to build a small-satellite constellation to enhance environmental and disaster monitoring, he said. The constellation will comprise eight satellites – four radar satellites and four optical ones, he said, without specifying a timetable for their placement.
Environmental and disaster monitoring satellites aside, the country will also catapult into orbit three resources monitoring satellites by the end of 2010, with the first one planned for next year, according to Guo Jianning, Director of the centre. The resources monitoring satellite, CBERS-2B, will be sent into orbit to continue a high-technology collaboration between China and Brazil, according to sources from the centre.
CBERS, or the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite programme, was launched by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in 1988. The two sides aimed to set up a complete remote-sensing system to monitor changes in land resources, detect pollution and formulate resource conservation strategy. The first CBERS series was launched in 1999, followed by the second in 2003.
Since then the centre has received and distributed at least 100,000 images to benefit users in China, Brazil and a dozen other countries including Malaysia, Pakistan and Mongolia. The satellite data have been an important source of reference for decision-making in China. They have been used in a host of key national projects including the diversion of water from the country’s water-rich south to the parched north and construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Guo said. To maintain the continuation of remote-sensing data, scientists are working on the CBERS-3 and CBERS-4 satellites, which will be launched in years to come, he said.