China’s Long March 2C launches China-France CFOSat, Belarus’ BSUSat-1, 6 Chinese smallsats

Image courtesy of CASC.

Today, at 8:43 a.m. Beijing time (GMT+8), China’s Long March 2C rocket launched the China France Oceanography Satellite (CFOSat) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. Piggybacking on the satellite were Belarus’ first student satellite BSUSat-1, and six demonstration satellites from China.

This was the 53rd flight of the Long March 2C, a two-stage vehicle with an optional third stage that was not used during this particular launch. The two-stage liquid-propelled Long March 2C can take up to 1,400kg to a Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), and is developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the commercial arm of China’s space programme.


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CFOSat is an Earth Observation (EO) satellite jointly developed by China’s space agency CNSA and France’s space agency CNES. The satellite has a mass of approximately 600kg, and has been placed in the SSO at an altitude of 520km with a design life of 3 years. Approximately 32 minutes after liftoff, CFOSat deployed its solar arrays, and the health of the satellite has been confirmed.

Conceived of by China and France in 2011, and formalized in 2014, CFOSat aims to study the characteristics of the ocean surface, as well as how ocean-atmosphere exchanges contribute to climate change. The entire process, from conception to operations, will be a joint China-France effort, with ground stations in Xi’an, China, and Toulouse, France, participating in data collection and analysis.

CFOSat’s bus was developed by China’s Aerospace Dongfanghong Satellite Co., a subsidiary of CASC, and is based on CASC’s CAST2000 platform. It carries two major payloads – SWIM (Surface Waves Investigation and Monitoring), a wave scatterometer supplied by CNES, and SCAT (wind SCATterometer), a wind-field scatterometer supplied by CNSA.

SWIM, which was manufactured by Thales Alenia Space, is a Real-Aperture Radar (RAR) system, and will survey the length, height and direction of waves. SCAT, developed by China, which will measure the strength and direction of winds, and together the two will take simultaneous measurements of waves and winds.

According to CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall, the data and findings from CFOSat will be used by the Space Climate Observatory (SCO), which is one of the climate change institutions proposed under the Paris Declaration.

BSUSat-1 & Other satellites

BSUSat-1, developed by the Belarusian State University (BSU), is the country’s first student satellite, with a design life of 5 years. It is demonstration satellite to test satellite propulsion, communications systems, and data collection, and will transmit radio signals that students can access by using a USB flash drive.

The other satellites launched today were for Chinese NewSpace companies, China’s Hongyan LEO communications constellation, and Chinese universities.


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