EO Satellite Launches & Satellite Selfie

Satellites orbiting the Earth

Artist’s rendition of satellites orbiting the Earth – rottenman/123RF Stock Photo

Looking at the latest Earth Observation (EO) satellite launches over the last week, together with the story of satellite taking a selfie!

China Satellite

Last week, China launched its latest EO satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The satellite, Gaofen-12 03, was launched from the Long March 4C rocket into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of approximately 630 kilometres.

As the name suggests, it is the third of Gaofen-12 satellite, with the previous two launched in November 2019 and March 2021 respectively. These satellites are reported to have high-resolution microwave imaging system to the sub-meter level, but no detail is known on their exact specification. The data is expected to be used for urban planning, land surveys, road network design, crop yield estimation and disaster relief.

Singapore Satellites

Singapore launched three satellites at the end of June aboard the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. All three satellites were successfully placed in 570 km orbits. The three satellites were:

  • DS-EO – Carrying an optical imager offering multi-spectral imaging with a 0.5 metre spatial resolution. The project was led by the Defence Science and Technology Agency and ST Engineering, and the data is expected to be used by Singapore Government agencies for applications such as land classification, maritime security and disaster relief.
  • NeuSAR – a pathfinder commercial satellite carrying a polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (SAR). The project was led by Singapore’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, and the intention is that this will be the first of a six satellite constellation providing a revisit time of one hour.
  • Scoob-1 – a 3.1kg nanasatellite designed and built by students from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. It is the 10th research satellite launched by the University, and it’s aimed at measuring the sun’s energy. The satellite carries a solar spectrum spectral sensor with 18 bands ranging from ultra-violet to infrared; together with a small optical imaging camera with a spatial resolution of 30 metres.

The launch also included an experimental mission, which will perform in-orbit missions for ISRO, poetically titled the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM).

USA Satellite

On the 2nd July Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne completed its first ever night launch, putting seven small satellites into orbit from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California. Amongst the seven, was the NACHOS 2 (Nano-satellite Atmospheric Chemistry Hyperspectral Observation System) which is an experimental cubesat designed by the US Department of Energy Los Alamos National Lab (LANL).

NACHOS is an ultra-compact, high-resolution, hyperspectral imager to monitor fossil fuel burning and low-level passive degassing at volcanoes. It is the second of the NACHOS missions, with NACHOS 1 launched in February 2022.

Satellite Selfie

To end this week, we loved the story from NanoAvionics who used their microsatellite MP43, which was launched in April, to take a selfie of itself over the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The satellite used a selfie stick and video to take the image with a GoPro Hero 7, at an altitude of approximately 550 km.

As the only living structure visible from space, NanoAvionics wanted to highlight the vulnerability of our planet and the importance of EO for monitoring environmental and climate changes.

A two-minute YouTube video of the selfie event can be seen here, which achieves NanoAvionics twin aims of promoting the benefits of EO and demonstrating the fragility of the planet – particularly with everything currently going on in the world. It is well worth a watch!

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