Ziyuan 2 was a dual-use remote sensing satellite designed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). The satellite was designed to provide medium-resolution images of Earth for territorial surveying, environment monitoring, city planning, crop yield assessment, disaster monitoring purposes, and could also be used for certain military roles such as mapping and target locating.
Ziyuan 2 was the largest and heaviest satellite ever built by China at the time of its launch. The satellite operated in a Sun-Synchronous Orbit. The satellite had a designed operational life of two years, but the first satellite remained operational for more than four years.
The satellite could use its onboard panchromatic camera to capture black and white images of 3-metre resolution and 30km swath. The data was stored on the satellite or delivered directly to the ground station. The camera could be swung to either side, allowing it to point to different targets rapidly. The satellite also had the orbit manoeuvre ability in order to cover different regions on Earth.
With its improved imaging system and star-sensor three-axis stabilisation technology, the Ziyuan 2 was said to be the most advanced and capable remote sensing satellite ever developed by China when it was introduced. However, it could only capture images of 3m resolution in the visible spectrum, meaning that it was still generations behind those introduced by the U.S., Russia, Europe, and Japan.
Development of the imaging system for the Ziyuan 2 began in 1993, and the engineering development of the satellite began in 1996. It was the first spacecraft to be built in the space fabrication facility in the “Beijing Space City” located in the northwest suburb of Beijing.
The satellite remained operational until 2004, two years beyond its designed life.
The satellite featured some improvement in its imaging system.
The launch of Ziyuan 2-03 allowed the three Ziyuan 2 satellites to be positioned with equal distance on the orbit to provide a full global coverage at all time for a brief period of time.
Last updated: 3 April 2012