Sunday, December 10, 2006

Satellite to improve weather forecasts

China successfully launched its second geostationary orbit meteorological satellite, Fengyun-2D (FY-2D), on Friday to provide better weather forecasting services for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

The FY-2D satellite was launched into its target orbit at 8:53 am aboard a Long March-3A carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

"The satellite will monitor weather changes at all the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games venues," Li Qin, chief designer of the FY-2D, told Xinhua.

"It will provide accurate and timely information about weather changes to help us with weather forecasts during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, especially the opening and closing ceremony and important contests," he said.

The satellite separated from the rocket about 24 minutes after lift-off and then successfully entered geosynchronous transfer orbit, according to the satellite monitoring centre in Xi'an.

Yang Jun, director of the the China Meteorological Administration's National Satellite Meteorological Centre, said that the FY-2D will form an observation system with FY-2C, China's first geostationary orbit weather satellite which went into orbit on October 19, 2004.

The two satellites have their own observation tasks, and at the same time, they can replace each other in case either one of them malfunctions, Yang said.

The FY-2D will also expand the geostationary weather observation range and improve the forecasting and monitoring of extreme weather.

This launch is the 11th flight of the LM-3A carrier rocket, all of which have been successful.

"The LM-3A has now entered a phase of steady commercial operation," said Li Jinghong, the rocket's deputy designer.

China will launch another 22 meteorological satellites by 2020 after successfully putting FY-2D into orbit.

The 22 satellites include four more from the FY-2 series, 12 from the Fengyun-3 series and six from the Fengyun-4 series, according to sources from the China Meteorological Administration.

Fengyun-2E, Fengyun-2F, Fengyun-2G and Fengyun-2H are scheduled to be launched in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.

The first two experimental models in the Fengyun-3 series, a new generation of polar-orbiting satellites, will be launched in 2007 and 2009.

The other 10 will go into orbit from 2011 to 2018.

China will launch two experimental geostationary orbit Fengyun-4 models, followed by four Fengyun-4 satellites from 2012 to 2019.

China launched its first large-capacity communications satellite, known as "Xinnuo 2," for television broadcasting, mobile communications and other services on October 29, but it failed to unfold its main solar panel 10 days after.

Mission controllers discovered on November 7 that the satellite did not respond to ground signals. The lack of power now means that there is little chance of recovering the satellite.

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