China launches another Gaofen Earth observation satellite

A new optical Earth observation satellite launched by China Monday joins the country’s remote sensing network for land surveys, urban planning, and agriculture monitoring.

The Gaofen 11-02 remote sensing satellite lifted off at 0557 GMT (1:57 a.m. EDT) Monday from the Taiyuan launch base in northern China aboard a Long March 4B rocket.

The 154-foot-tall (46.9-meter) liquid-fueled rocket flew south from Taiyuan, located in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi, to place the Gaofen 11-02 satellite into an elliptical orbit between 151 miles (244 kilometers) and 429 miles (691 kilometers) at an inclination of 97.3 degrees to the equator, according to U.S. military tracking data.

The spacecraft deployed from the Long March 4B’s third stage in orbit around 13 minutes after liftoff.

The Gaofen 11-02 satellite is a foll0w-up mission to China’s Gaofen 11 satellite, which launched on a Long March 4B rocket in July 2018. Both missions are part of China’s Gaofen constellation of Earth-imaging satellites.

Chinese state media said the Gaofen 11-02 optical remote sensing satellite has a resolution of better than 1 meter, or about 3.3 feet. The spacecraft “will be mainly used for land surveys, city planning, land rights confirmation, road network design, crop yield estimation and disaster prevention and mitigation,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The Gaofen 11-01 and 11-02 satellites will work together in orbit to improve the network’s observing efficiency, Xinhua said.

China’s Gaofen satellites are part of the China High-Resolution Earth Observation System, or CHEOS. Chinese officials say the CHEOS satellite fleet is a civilian-operated program comprising optical and radar imaging spacecraft, and authorities have published high-resolution imagery taken by previous Gaofen satellites.

Amateur video posted on social media platforms appeared to show the first stage of the Long March 4B rocket crashing back to Earth following Monday’s launch. Space missions lifting off from China’s inland spaceports typically drop spent rocket stages on land, and often near populated areas.

China’s newest launch site, located on Hainan Island in the south of the country, allows rockets to fly on trajectories over the ocean.

Chinese Long March 2, 3 and 4 rockets burn a toxic mix of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants. One of the videos posted Monday shows a cloud of brownish-orange vapor rising from the rocket crash site in a populated area.

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