China sent yet another clutch of Gaofen Earth observation satellites to space on Wednesday (Nov. 16).
A Ceres-1 rocket carrying four Gaofen 03D satellites launched Wednesday at 2:20 a.m. EST (0720 GMT; 2:20 p.m. local time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Xinhua, a state-run media outlet, confirmed that the satellites deployed successfully.
"The payloads lifted by the rocket will be used to provide commercial remote sensing services," Xinhua reported (opens in new tab), adding that this is the fourth flight of Ceres-1, which is built by the state-supported Beijing company Galactic Energy.
Space companies in China are generally not independent entities like in the United States or most other countries. Rather, they tend to be offshoots of the China National Space Administration and the Chinese government.
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The Gaofen series forms part of the China High-resolution Earth Observation System, which aims to capture high-resolution imagery of our planet's surface. But the uses of the Gaofen satellites remain somewhat nebulous.
During past launches, Chinese state media outlets have said that Gaofen satellites assist with urban planning, road network design, land surveys, crop yields and disaster relief. Capabilities of the Gaofen series include microwave, optical and radar remote sensing, Chinese officials have said. But the South China Morning Post (opens in new tab) has suggested there may be military applications of the satellites as well.
Wednesday's launch was China's 53rd of 2022, bringing the country within three liftoffs of matching its 2021 record of 56. The country generally operates independently of the international space community; NASA is restricted by the U.S. government in making bilateral agreements with China, although NASA Administrator Bill Nelson recently said that collaboration with China is "up to China."
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).