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Chinese satellites to provide emergency response for Belt and Road countries

by Andrew Jones May 03, 2018 12:40

An early image returned by the Fengyun-3D weather satellite of the South China Sea region in December 2017. CNS

China has set up an emergency response mechanism to help countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative deal with extreme weather, according to a China Meteorological Administration (CMA) announcement.

Under the mechanism, countries suffering extreme weather events such as typhoons and sandstorms can submit applications to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

China will then provide coverage and data using its Fengyun ( 风云, literally, 'wind cloud') weather satellites to ensure the timely release of information essential to disaster relief.

Zhang Zuqiang, spokesperson for the CMA, said the emergency mechanism was established in response to a request from the WMO in mid-April to obtain more observations of the Indian Ocean region through China's geostationary satellites, China Dailyreports.

China has launched 16 Fengyun satellites, the first in 1988, and nine are operational. Five of these are in geostationary orbits, at around 36,000 kilometres above the Earth, with four in much lower Sun-synchronous orbits at an altitude of around 800 km.

The satellites serve more than 70 countries and regions and about 2,500 domestic users.


An animation created from images taken by China's Fengyun-4A satellite. CMA

A Space Silk Road

China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), also referred to as One Belt One Road (OBOR), is the signature project of Chinese president Xi Jinping and a significant part of Chinese foreign and economic policy.

The initiative, which seeks to address pressing domestic issues such as the need for regional development, includes around 70 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa and has a number of perceived geopolitical aspects.

The 'Spatial Information Corridor', also known as the Space-based Silk Road, is the orbital companion to the terrestrial BRI components, the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road.

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the Spatial Information Corridor will cover Belt and Road countries with remote sensing, communications and broadcasting, and Beidou navigation and positioning satellite services for applications including telemedecine, disaster relief, transport, entertainment and counter terrorism.

Satellite coverage will also provide data on polar ice, water resources and the atmosphere and help contribute to the capacity building of developing countries through the UNISPACE+50initiative and Sustainable Development Goals.

At the same time, the development of the Beidou constellation and ground stations could impact other systems, such as GPS (US), GLONASS (Russia) and Galileo (EU), and related companies in some Belt and Road countries and tie these into the BRI.

As Beidou and other GNSS systems are used for weapons guidance and tracking, the development may have security ramifications.

China is looking to launch 10 Beidou missions in 2018, with eight of these to carry pairs of satellites to medium Earth orbits.


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