Earth monitoring satellite launched by China and Brazil
Earth monitoring satellite launched by China and Brazil

The second half of a joint Sino-Brazilian environmental satellite program streaked into space today, less than a week after China made history with its first manned spaceflight.

The blastoff also came two months after a tragic launch pad accident at the Alcantara launch base in Brazil that killed 21 workers in an explosion as final preparations were underway.

Today's liftoff of the second China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite, or CBERS 2, was at 0316 GMT (11:16 p.m. EDT Tuesday) aboard the sixth Long March 4B rocket from the Taiyuan space center in China's Shanxi province.

CBERS satellite image -
File image of Long March 4B rocket launching the CBERS 1 satellite in 1999. Photo: INPE

CBERS 2 was placed in a 483-mile high Sun-synchronous orbit inclined 98.5 degrees about 12 minutes into the flight, followed during the craft's first orbit by deployment of the electricity-producing solar panel and initial housekeeping tasks to get the satellite into controlled flight.

After an intensive checkout period, CBERS 2 will commence normal operations about 80 days after launch to begin a two-year mission that will revolve around three cameras aboard the 3,190-pound satellite.

The imagers -- each with varying resolutions -- make up the main remote sensing payload aboard CBERS 2. A camera with a resolution of 20 meters will spend much of its time gathering images of smaller-scale locales, focusing on applications such as agriculture, cartography, and geology.

Another instrument gathers infrared data to study temperature differences and to generate mosaics using three spectral bands with 80-meter resolution and another with a resolution of 160 meters.

A Wide Field Imager is available to study larger regions up to 900 kilometers in size with a revisit period of just five days, compared with 26 days of repeat visit time with the higher resolution cameras.

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An artist's concept of CBERS 2 spacecraft in orbit. Photo: INPE

CBERS 2 fills the role left open by CBERS 1, which was taken out of operation in August, having almost doubled its design life since its launch in October 1999. A third and fourth member of the CBERS constellation are in the works, with one to be lofted by China and the other supposed to be orbited by Brazil, said the official People's Daily newspaper.

The fleet of satellites principally monitor activity in the Amazon rain forest, weather patterns around the world, and agricultural crop cycles in Brazil and China.

CBERS 2 hardware preparation activities began in 2000 and was built and tested both in Brazil and China by a joint international team.

Brazilian officials say the data provided by CBERS 2 could fill the void left by the images lost from Landsat 7, the American satellite that suffered a debilitating failure this summer.

Also launched aboard the Long March booster was a small satellite called CX-1, which will carry out a communications mission.

Source: http://spaceflightnow.comCBERS satellite image -