China launches remote sensing satellites on a Long March-2C carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Dec. 26, 2017. As the third batch of the Yaogan-30 project, the satellites will conduct electromagnetic environmental probes and other experiments. (Xinhua/Liang Keyan)
Fruitful year for space ambitions despite rocket setback
China on Tuesday successfully launched a set of remote sensing satellites, as part of its last space mission this year, marking a series of landmark achievements in the country's aerospace industry in 2017, despite the failed launch of a heavy-lift carrier rocket mid-year.
The satellites were launched on a Long March-2C carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The launch is part of the third batch of the Yaogan-30 project, which will conduct electromagnetic environmental surveys among other experiments, further boosting the country's competitiveness in space science, Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.
"It is a fruitful year for China's aerospace industry," Jiao Weixin, a space science professor at Peking University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Jiao stressed the importance of China's Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft completing three refueling missions with the Tiangong-2space lab in the first nine months of 2017.
Tianzhou-1 not only refuels the space lab, but using its fast-docking technology it can complete the mission within hours, a great enhancement in efficiency from what used to take days. Such advanced technology lays a great foundation for China's imminent space station building and manned space expropriation, Jiao explained.
In November, China successfully launched two BeiDou-3 satellites into space via a single carrier rocket. Since then, China's self-developed BeiDou Navigation Satellite System has officially begun to expand into a global network.
BeiDou will cover countries and regions along the Belt and Road by 2018, and is set to form a complete global satellite navigation system by 2020, Xinhua reported.
It is also a great year for China's meteorological satellites, with China's new-generation Fengyun-4A geostationary weather satellite successfully sending the first set of images and data back to earth, the sending of Fengyun-3D into space, and the successful use of TanSat - China's first carbon monitoring satellite, Xian Di, head of the National Satellite Meteorological Center's satellite data-sharing department, told the Global Times.
Fengyun-3D is one of China's second-generation Polar-Orbiting Meteorological Satellites, which provides global three dimensional weather and multi-spectral remote sensing images.
The satellite will improve the accuracy of atmospheric sounding and enhance the monitoring of greenhouse gases.
The network it creates will also help with China's disaster relief work.
China has become a leader in the field of meteorological satellites, and it is making good use of this technology to help the world tackle climate change, with China sharing data from Fengyun satellites as well as TanSat with the international community, Xian added.
Progress to be made
China conducted 22 rocket launches in 2016, ranking top in the world together with the US. The number in 2017 is likely to see a slight drop from 2016, as several space projects have been delayed due to the unsuccessful launch of the latest heavy-lift carrier rocket, the Long March-5Y2, in July, an aerospace expert requesting anonymity told the Global Times.
An irregularity occurred with the rocket, which was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in South China's Hainan Province on July 2, causing it to fail to reach its planned orbit.
The failed launch shows that China's rocket engines for heavy-lift launch vehicles still lag behind those of the US and Russia, and it will take time to identify the specific technical problems and run more tests before putting them to use, Jiao said.
(Source: Global Times, http://en.people.cn, December 27, 2017)