China launched the second TH-1 Tianhui-1 satellite - Tianhui-1B - on Sunday, using a Long March 2D (Chang Zheng-2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 07:10UTC from the 603 launch pad from the LC-43 launch complex.
Like the first satellite, launched on August 24th, 2010, the new satellite will be used for mapping using stereo-topographic techniques from orbit.
The Tianhui-1 (Sky drawing) satellites - built by the Hangtian Dongfanghong Weixing Corporation and established by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) - are equipped with a three-dimensional survey camera and a CCD camera with a ground resolution of 5 meters, spectral region of 0.51μm to 0.69μm, and with a camera angle of 25 degrees.
A multi-spectrum camera – with a ground resolution of 10 meters, and spectral region of 0.43μm to 0.52μm, 0.52μm to 0.61μm, 0.61μm to 0.69μm, and 0.76μm to 0.90μm - was also be aboard. The cameras form an image of 60 kilometres wide.
The satellites operate on a 500 km circular orbit and are equipped with two deployable solar panels for energy generation that is stored on onboard batteries.
The Tianhui-1 satellites are part of the Ziyuan program that cover different civil and military earth observation as well as remote sensing programs. The Ziyuan-1 program is focused on Earth resources and looks to have two distinct military and civil branches (this one being operated together with Brazil).
The satellites are operated jointly by the Center for Earth Operation and Digital Earth (CEODE) and the Brazilian INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais National Institute of Space Research).
Ziyuan-3 satellites are operated by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. There have also been indications that the development of Tianhui-1 program was merged with the Ziyuan-3 project planned for launch in 2011.
This launch was the 161st Chinese successful orbital launch and the 161st launch of a Chang Zheng launch vehicle, being also the 52nd orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
This was also the first orbital launch from Jiuquan this year and the sixth Chinese orbital launch in 2012.
The road to Shenzhou-9:
On May 5, the China Academy of Launch Technology (CALT) plant conducted the delivery ceremony for the Chang Zheng-2F launch vehicle that will be used for the launch of SZ-9 Shenzhou-9 manned mission.
The rocket passed a readiness review on April 11, allowing for the different launcher components to be sent by rail to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center where the manned SZ-9 capsule is already being prepared for launch after arriving on April 9.
Shenzhou-9 launch is now expected to take place at the end of June or in the first days of July. The Shenzhou-9 should be the first manned docking on the Chinese space program.
Also, on the subject of the crew, the latest statements from CALT confirms the presence of the first Chinese taikonauta female on board. The name of Liu Yang has been posted for the main SZ-9 crew, as much as this is still lacking official confirmation.