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New Satellites to Monitor Weather

China plans to launch three Fengyun-2 Type 2 (FY-2 02) meteorological satellites on Long March 3A carrier rockets, aerospace officials announced on Tuesday in Beijing.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CAST) and the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) signed a contract on the research, production, launch and operation of the satellites on Tuesday. The first has already passed inspection and could be in orbit next month. All three will be launched by 2010 and operational until 2012.

The satellite's remote sensors can observe the earth from an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. It will be in synchronous orbit over the equator and will monitor the Asia-Pacific area.

A CAST spokesman who declined to be named said, "The contract, the first of its kind signed in the field of China's civil space flight, marks the turn of the industry toward practical satellite applications instead of only experimental ones."

According to Qin Dahe, the CMA's top official, the biggest improvement in the FY-2 02 over previous Chinese satellites is its scan radiometer, with five channels instead of three. The satellite's resolution and accuracy of observation have also been substantially enhanced.

Two new infrared observation and visible light channels that were not included in the experimental models of the FY series have been added to the second generation.

The additions will enable the new satellite to observe the size of water drops atop cloud layers around the clock. Monitoring of the surface temperature of the seas will also be enhanced.

Such functions may help China reduce the effects of natural disasters and improve its monitoring of weather and climate changes.

The new satellite also has better access to data of other types like oceanic, meteorological and hydrological information and can monitor changes in solar and space particle radiation.

Since 1988, China has launched four polar orbit weather satellites ones and two earth synchronous orbit satellites. Two are still operating.

Work on a Fengyun-3 polar orbit satellite is expected to begin soon, according to Qin.

"China badly needs a stationary satellite like the FY-2 02, with functions like detecting sandstorms, forest and prairie fires," Qin said.

(China Daily September 2, 2004)

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