Jun 04, 2014

Flight MH370 search reveals China's HD satellite ambitions

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The contribution of China’s Gaofen-1 satellite during the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that lost contact with air traffic control on March 8 and subsequently disappeared has shown the determination of Beijing to build the world’s most powerful satellite navigation system, reports the state-run Global Times.

Global Times said Gaofen-1 is the first of a series of high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites designed by the China National Space Administration. The civilian High-Definition Earth Observation Satellite program was originally proposed in 2006 and approved by the government in 2010. Between 2013 and 2016, China plans to launch six Gaofen satellites. After GF-1, the second Gaofen satellite, known as GF-2, is set to be launched this year.

In 2016, China will launch three more Gaofen satellites. By 2020, China’s High-resolution Earth Observation System is likely to be complete after all the Gaofen satellites are in space. Although the High-resolution Earth Observation System is designed mainly for civilian use, Global Times said that it is valuable to the People’s Liberation Army as well.

Designed as the first high-resolution satellite, the GF-1 carries two two-meter panchromatic, two eight-meter multispectral high-definition cameras, and four 16-meter resolution wide-angle cameras. It has a swath width of 800 kilometers while the SPOT6 designed by France can only reach 60 kilometers. China also has other satellite program dedicated to the military. The paper, known for its brand of flag-waving nationalism, predicted China will eventually have the best satellite technology of the world.

A three-month long search for the missing plane, which had 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, has yet to locate the plane. Authorities said last week that a section of the southern Indian Ocean where pings believed to be from the plane’s flight recorder were detected has been ruled out as the plane’s final resting place.

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