China Launches New Ocean-Watching Satellite
China has developed a family of boosters over the years, including new development of a heavy-lift launcher to fly by 2011. Image
Credit: China National Space Administration

China launched a satellite Wednesday to begin a three-year mission surveying the world's oceans to monitor sea color and temperature, according to state media reports.

The Haiyang 1B satellite is China's second oceanographic satellite, and it replaces an earlier craft that stopped working in 2004, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Liftoff of Haiyang 1B occurred at 0327 GMT (11:27 p.m. EDT Tuesday) from Taiyuan launch center in northeastern China's Shanxi province, Xinhua reported.

A two-stage Long March 2C rocket deployed the payload into orbit a few minutes later, completing China's second space launch of the year. The flight of the 138-foot-tall booster marked the Long March rocket family's 54th consecutive successful mission since 1996.

Haiyang 1B was delivered to a Sun-synchronous orbit circling Earth's poles. This type of orbit allows satellites to fly over much of the planet at set intervals.

The craft is the second ocean surveying satellite fielded by China, and its mission will include pushing Chinese development of ocean resources, aiding the construction of new harbors and ports, and monitoring ocean pollution, according to Xinhua.

China's first ocean studies spacecraft was launched in 2002 and prematurely ceased operations less than two years later. Engineers added upgrades to Haiyang 1B to increase its life expectancy, sharpen its imagery, and update its software, said a Chinese official in a state media report.

The previous craft conducted extensive studies of regions in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, according to the People's Daily newspaper. Reports provided no details on likely focus areas for the new satellite.

After Wednesday's launch, officials announced plans to develop and launch five more oceanographic satellites in the next few years. An updated craft could launch by 2009, and even more advanced ocean surveillance satellites could follow in the next decade, according to Xinhua.

The launch was the second of the year for China's space program, and the 10th space launch to successfully reach orbit in 2007.

China plans more than a half-dozen additional launches this year to carry government and commercial satellites into orbit. China will also send its first lunar orbiter to the Moon in a launch planned for this fall.

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