China Siwei, a commercial subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), released today samples of the Earth imagery captured by the two SuperView-1 remote-sensing satellites, two weeks after the problematic launch mission on 28 December 2016.
SuperView-1, or Gaojing 1 in its Chinese name, is a civilian Earth-observation satellite designed to capture sub-metre grade satellite imagery of the globe for commercial purposes. The first pair of the satellite, SuperView-1 01 and 02, were launched by a Long March 2D rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre (TSLC) on 28 December – the first time that the 24-year-old launcher flew from a launch site other than Jiuquan.
Despite initial claim of a successful launch, orbital data showed that the two main payloads did not reach their intended orbit, but were instead placed into an elliptic orbit (apogee: 524 km, perigee: 213 km, inclination 97.6°), indicating a launcher performance shortfall during the ascent stage of the mission. Chinese state TV report of the mission revealed (unintentionally) the discrepancies in scheduled and actual flight sequence events on the flight monitor screen inside the launch control centre at Taiyuan, showing later-than-scheduled engine cut-off time for both the first- and second-stage of the rocket.
Over the following two weeks, the two SuperView 1 satellites made a series of orbital elevation burns using their own propulsion to slowly manoeuvre from their initial orbit to a 530 km near-circular orbit. Today’s release of the first imagery captured by the two SuperView 1 satellites suggest that they are now positioned on their intended operating orbit, possibly at the expense of their operational lifespan due to extra propellants being used for orbit elevation manoeuvre.
SuperView 1 was designed and built by the Beijing-based China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), based on its CAST3000B small satellite bus and with an orbital mass of 500 kg. The satellite is equipped with an electro-optical imaging camera developed by Beijing Institute of Space Machinery and Electronics (508 Institute). When operating from a 500 km orbit, the satellite can capture colour imagery in 0.5 m spatial resolution, or multispectral imagery in 2 m resolution, with a ground swath width of 12 km.
A second pair of the SuperView 1 satellite are scheduled for launch in 2017. CASC plans to build a SuperView Earth-observation satellite constellation by 2022 that will eventually be composed of 16 electro-optical imaging satellites (0.5 metre resolution), 4 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, 4 ‘high-end’ electro-optical imaging satellites, and several video imaging satellites. Once fully operational, the constellation will be capable of providing high-resolution imagery and videos of any location in the world. For certain regions, the constellation can provide near continuous coverage, with imagery refreshed every 24 hours.
China Siwei Surveying and Mapping Technology Co. Ltd is a commercial subsidiary of the CASC, providing a range of satellite-based services including satellite navigation and positioning, digital map, and Earth imaging. The company operates the SuperView satellite constellation and distribute its imagery through its subsidiary Siwei Star Co. Ltd.