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Weather watcher to soar high above the clouds
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Fengyun 3, a new weather satellite developed in Shanghai and designed to greatly improve forecasting, is expected to be launched in May, the satellite's designer told Shanghai Daily Wednesday.

The satellite has passed all its engineering tests and will soon be sent to the satellite launch center, said the Shanghai Institute of Satellite Engineering which developed the satellite. The exact date of the move has not yet been revealed.

Once launched into space, Fengyun 3 will replace the Fengyun-1D meteorological satellite orbiting around the Earth. It is said to be one of China's second generation of polar orbiting meteorological satellites.

"Compared with the predecessor, Fengyun 3 will provide us with more meteorological details for temperature, humidity, cloud and radiation," said Chen Weiqiang, a satellite designer with the institute.

Fengyun 3 is equipped with 11 separate devices. With its equipment, the satellite can monitor weather changes more accurately and its cameras can zoom in for close-ups of a 250-square-meter area - four times the power of the current satellite.

With its microwave band channel, the new satellite can film through clouds to present three-dimensional pictures. Its predecessor Fengyun 1 could only take two-dimensional pictures.

"To make an analogy, the pictures sent by Fengyun 1 are black and white while those from Fengyun 3 will be colored and three-dimensional," Chen said. "With it, we will be able to forecast the weather more precisely, especially for mid and long term predictions."

The Beijing Olympic Games will benefit from the satellite. Precision weather forecasts can be so detailed that they can cover certain stadiums for certain periods, helping to make and adjust the Olympic schedules.

The satellite will also be used to monitor major natural disasters and the ecological environment - for example to find the source of sand storms that may hit Beijing.

The snow which stroke the southern part of the country at the beginning of the year could have been coped with better if Fengyun 3 was in use.

"With Fengyun 3, people would be able to predict how long the snow would last," Chen explained.

(Shanghai Daily March 27, 2008)

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