China is planning to launch a 2-billion-yuan satellite into space. The satellite, which will be used to monitor changes in the solar magnetic field, solar storms and other aspects of “space weather”, is the most costly space explorer of China.
Prof. Wei Fengsi, who works for the Aerospace Science and Application Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that space weather monitoring, unlike weather forecasts in the aerosphere, focuses on the space between the aerosphere and the sun.
Scientists believe that abnormal space weather is responsible for 40 percent of satellite malfunctioning. For instance, bad space weather caused the explosion of the Asia-Pacific II communications satellite in 1995 and the breakdown of a US$200 million American communications satellite in 1997.
Chinese scientists started large-scale space weather research in the late 1990s, nearly 10 years later than their Western counterparts.
(Beijing Review November 1, 2001)