China bounces back with Long March 11 launch of nine satellites

by Rui C. Barbosa

Three days after losing a high-resolution remote sensing satellite due to an apparent problem with its upper stage, China launched nine new satellites for the Jilin-1 remote sensing constellation from a barge out at sea.

Launch of the nine Jilin-1 Gaofen-03 satellites took place at 01:23 UTC on Tuesday using the Long March-11H (Y2) rocket.

Launched from the De Bo 3 launch platform, all mission preparations and countdown operations were conducted from the command and control ship Bei Hai Jiu 101. This ship left port on September 13 to travel to the launch zone in the Yellow Sea.

The Jilin-1 Gaofen-03 (Jilin-1 High Resolution-03) satellites are a group of nine satellites for the Jilin-1 EO satellite constellation. With a mass of less than 40 kg, the group includes three video satellites and six push-broom satellites.

Developed by Changguang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd., and fully inheriting the mature technical principles of the Jilin-1 Gaofen-03A satellite, the new satellites adopt a lightweight structural design.

They include an integrated electronic system, high-resolution ultra-light Innovative technologies – such as low-cost quantitative cameras – and have the characteristics of low cost, low power consumption, low weight, and high-resolution observation capacity.

After being inserted on the Jilin-1 constellation, the new satellites will provide users in the forestry, agriculture, grassland, ocean, resources, environment, and other industries with richer remote sensing data and product service.

The Jilin-1 satellite constellation was developed on China’s Jilin Province and is the country’s first self-developed remote sensing satellite for commercial use. Data is aimed to help clients forecast and mitigate geological disasters, as well as shorten the time scale for the exploration of natural resources.

The satellites are developed and operated by the Changguang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd under the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Jilin, one of the country’s oldest industrial bases, is developing its satellite industry in a new economic drive. The original plan was to launch 60 satellites by 2020 and 138 by 2030.

The De Bo 3 launch platform:

The De Bo 3 has a total length of 159.6 meters, a maximum width of 38.8 meters, a depth of 10.9 meters, a maximum load capacity of 20,500 tons, and a maximum unilateral buoyancy of 12,000 tons.

The ship’s power system is full electric propulsion, with a maximum speed of 12 knots, DP1 dynamic positioning and 4-point anchoring positioning system, and rapid load adjustment.

Before being adapted for the maritime orbital launches using the Long March-11H launch vehicle, the barge was used primarily for emergency rescue and salvage of large distressed and damaged ships and naval vessels.

It also could load and transport damaged ships and move sizeable offshore equipment and steel structure parts, offshore oil mining platforms, workshops, ship sections, and other oversized hardware.

Launch vehicle:

The Long March-11 (Chang Zheng-11) is a small solid-fueled quick-reaction launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) to provide an easy to operate quick-reaction launch vehicle. It can remain in storage for a prolonged period to launch on short notice.

LM-11 is a four-stage solid-fueled launch vehicle equipped with a reaction control system on the fourth stage.

The vehicle has a length of 20.8 meters, 2.0 meters in diameter, and a liftoff mass of 58,000 kg. At launch, it develops 120.000 kg/f, launching a 350 kg cargo into a 700 km SSO. The CZ-11 can use two types of fairing with 1.6 meters or 2.0 meters.

LM-11’s first launch took place on September 25, 2015, when successfully orbited the Pujiang-1 and the three Tianwang smallsats from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

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