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China tops the race for most EO satellite launches in 2012

US: In 2012 there were 24 civil, commercial and military spacecrafts for earth observation launched belonging to 13 world countries and organisations. The undisputable leader in the number of launched national earth remote sensing spacecrafts is again China for the fourth time in a row since 2007 (8 satellites), well outrunning Russia (3 satellites), France (satellites), meteorological Eumetsat organisation (2 meteosatellites) and 9 more countries, which launched by one satellite each. Over the past few years the leadership of China in annual RS satellites launch rates was challenged only by the USA (2009) and Germany (2008).

For the first time Venezuela entered the list of the RS Operators, for which China created and launched the first national VRSS-1 spacecraft “Francisco de Miranda”. In 2012, D.P.R.K (North Korea) formally entered the club of “space powers”, launching the first satellite with its own launch vehicle from the national launch pad. Despite official announcements about successful operation of the KMC-3-2 satellite with low resolution earth observation equipment onboard, there were no records of its functioning on the orbit (North Korean satellite was not included into the launch record statistics).

So, results of 2012 in the total number of launched satellites (24 spacecrafts) with earth observation equipment onboard have bitten all records over the past 12 years. Within 2000-2007 the RS satellites launch rate constituted 10-19 satellites on average per year. 21 satellites in 2008, 22 in 2009, 14 in 2010 and 23 satellites in 2011 were launched.

In the type of imaging equipment the majority of spacecrafts (21), launched in 2012, are equipped with optical earth observation equipment, with 3 satellites of the USA, India and China outfitted with SAR equipment.

In application and solutions the new RS satellites in 2012 can be sorted out as follows:
— 17 civil (including scientific and experimental) and dual-purpose satellites of China, Russia, France, Iran, India, Japan, Korea, Belarus, Germany, Venezuela;
— 4 military imagery intelligence satellites from China, USA, Russia and Turkey;
— 3 meteo-satellites from China and the European Eumetsat organisation.

Out of 17 new civil, commercial and dual-purpose satellites 6 can be attributed to experimental and scientific ones. Products from only 9 satellites can be accessed on the world and Russian geodata market. Among them are ZY-3 and TH-1-02 satellites (China), RISAT-1 (India), Kanopus-B (Russia), BelKa (Belarus), SPOT 6 and Pleiades-1В (France), Kompsat-3 (Korea) and Gokturk-2 (Turkey). Taking into account the imaging equipment performance, number of products and availability of a global distribution network, most influential on the world RS data market in the nearest future can be SPOT 6, Pleiades-1B and Kompsat-3 satellites. Plans for data distribution from two satellites – VRSS-1 (Venezuela) and HJ-1C (China) are not known yet. Notably, out of 24 launched EO satellites 23 were financed by the state or by an organization, whereas only SPOT 6 satellite is related to the commercial one, designed and fully financed by the European Aerospace company EADS Astrium. Distribution of new RS satellites by country and application is illustrated in Table 2.

In all, 32 countries and organisations were the operators of approximately 170 spacecrafts with EO equipment onboard, including meteo-satellites by the end of 2012. However, only 12-14 countries can be regarded as the world leaders in remote sensing, which are operators of national EO systems ranging from 2 to 30 spacecrafts. Among them are (in descending order of the satellites number): USA, China, India, Germany, Japan, France, Israel, Russia, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Eumetsat and ESA.

Largest in number, types of satellites and applications are the RS systems of the USA, European countries, China and India. European countries have united their efforts in space meteorology (Eumetsat) and applied science Earth observation programs (ESA), but at the same time keep on developing national special segments, aimed at solution of most urgent applied tasks. In Russia, following the years of crisis, the fleet of RS satellites has been created basically from scratch.

Source: Scan Ex