China launches Sino-Italian satellite Zhangheng-1, two ESA CubeSats & 4 others

Launch of Zhangheng-1. Image courtesy of CASC.

On 2 February 2018 at 3:15pm Beijing time (GMT+8), China launched Zhangheng-1, also known as China Seismo Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES) along with six other satellites. These included 2 CubeSats from the European Space Agency (ESA), GomX-4A and GomX-4B, ESA’s first launches of 2018.

The launch took place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center using a Long March 2D. Both ESA and China’s space contractor CASC have confirmed the success of the launch, with ESA stating that the two satellites flew over their mission control centre in Denmark some four hours after launch.

Zhangheng-1, a satellite with a total mass of about 700kg, will be used for earthquake monitoring purposes and has a design life of 5 years. It carries a high-precision magnetometer, an electromagnetic field detector, a Langmuir probe, a plasma analyzer, a GNSS receiver and triband beacon, and two high-energy particle detectors (HEPD). The satellite will fly over the same spot once every 5 days, and provides a coverage of the whole of China including 1000 km around its borders, the Pacific Rim and the Mediterranean-Himalayan belt.

The development of Zhangheng-1 also saw European involvement, as one of the two HEPDs was contributed by Italy as part of a collaboration between China’s space agency CNSA and Italian space agency ASI. The HEPD, known as LIMADOU, will investigate Earth-Sun interactions and solar physics phenomena.

After the successful launch, President of Italy Sergio Mattarella congratulated President of China Xi Jinping saying, “I would like to congratulate most warmly on placing in orbit the Chinese-Italian satellite “China Seismo Electromagnetic Satellite” (CSES) which will detect seismic phenomena. This initiative, promoted by ASI with CNSA within the “LIMADOU” project, represents a major scientific target in the peaceful use and exploration of outer space and a milestone for the aerospace relations between Europe and China. In light of this result, that combines Italian technology and Chinese instrumentation, I hope that, within our global strategic partnership, Italy and China could keep on working together with mutual benefits in the space science and build new significant and ambitious collaborations as the one agreed between ASI and China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) in Beijing at Our presence on 22 February 2017.”

The four other satellites launched yesterday are Shaonian Xing, a CubeSat developed by two Chinese teenagers, FengMaNiu 1, a 3U CubeSat by Chinese NewSpace company Link Space, and Argentinian CubeSats ÑuSat 4 and 5.

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