China launched a new Earth observation satellite into orbit on December 26, the latest in a string of space missions in which the country has set a new record this year.
A Long March 4C carrier rocket carried the Ziyuan-1 02E satellite from the Taiyuan launch site in Shanxi province around 12 pm. The satellite is equipped with a high-resolution near-infrared camera, a hyperspectral imager, and a long-wave infrared camera
When used in panchromatic mode, the camera can capture images with resolutions of up to five meters. It can produce images with a resolution of up to 10 meters when operating in multispectral mode.
The remote-sensing satellite Ziyuan (ZY), meaning Resource, will be used to collect high-resolution photos for mineral resource exploration, geological disaster prediction, and water quality monitoring with a designed lifespan of eight years.
China has also sent a second, smaller satellite into orbit, which will be used to teach geography and science at a Beijing middle school.
The December 26 launch was China’s 53rd orbital launch this year, breaking its previous record of 39 in both 2018 and 2020. According to Chinese media reports, two more satellite launches are expected before the end of 2021, bringing the total number of satellites launched this year to 104.
He Yufan, an officer with the Xian Satellite Monitor and Control Center, highlighted the record number of space launches. He also stated that the country will defend its space assets, but offered no further details, according to SCMP.
China’s Space Achievements In 2021
China has launched more satellites this year into orbit than previous years, and it is marginally ahead of other countries in the escalating space competition. The Tiangong space station’s core module and two crewed expeditions each carrying three astronauts to the station were among the major Chinese missions of this year.
By the end of October, there had been 40 launches from Chinese rocket launch pads, with two failures. While China has caught up in terms of launches, it still lags behind in terms of rocket carrying capacity.
The CZ-5, China’s most powerful rocket, launched in 2019, can take 25 tons to Low Earth Orbit, equivalent to Europe’s Ariane 5 and Russia’s Proton-M, while the American Falcon Heavy can lift 64 tons.
The Zhu Rong, which included an orbiter, lander, and rover, successfully landed on Mars in May. Previously, the United States and the former Soviet Union were the only countries to successfully land on Mars.
China intends to complete the space station’s construction by next year, with two more cargo trips and two crewed missions scheduled for 2022.
The EurAsian Times had earlier reported that in China’s next five-year plan, three missions are outlined: recovering samples from an asteroid, Mars, and a fly-by of the Jupiter system. China, on the other hand, will require a large amount of rocket power to meet all of these objectives.
China will keep pushing the boundaries of space exploration, according to Geng Yan, head of deep space exploration at the Lunar Exploration and Space Programme Center of the China National Space Administration.
Last year, China successfully launched Beidou, its own global satellite navigation system, as a rival to the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).
China’s New Rocket Engine
China has recently reached a major milestone in its rocket engine development, which might pave the way for manned missions to the moon and deep space explorations in the future, The EurAsian Times reported.
The engine will power China’s next-generation super heavy-lift Long March 9 – also known as the CZ-9 – rocket, which is planned to take a crew to the moon. When completed, the engine will be the most powerful of its kind.
The YF-77 engine, which powers the first stage of China’s Long March CZ-5 heavy-lift rockets, is set to be replaced in the future by the new hydrogen-oxygen engine (YF-79).
Instead of the YF-77’s gas-generator cycle, the new rocket will use a staged combustion cycle, which improves efficiency by burning through the propellant more extensively. China has set a number of lofty goals for space exploration, including the construction of Tiangong, its permanent space station.
However, its current rockets are not powerful enough to carry out these important tasks. Some missions had been delayed by approximately two years because of this limitation and this is the reason why China is rapidly working towards its next-generation super heavy-lift Long March 9.
A large portion of China’s increased launch activity has been attributed to state-owned institutions and the creation of new launch centers, although the country’s private and commercial sectors have also made significant progress.
Beijing has also set its eyes on Mars. Following the successful landing of a spacecraft on Mars in May 2021, China plans to send a manned mission to the Red Planet in 2033.