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.
File image of Long March 4B rocket launching the CBERS 1 satellite in 1999. Photo: INPE
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.
An artist's concept of CBERS 2 spacecraft in orbit. Photo: INPE
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.