A Chinese satellite takes images of San Francisco in just 42 seconds sharp enough to identify a military vehicle on the street


Dec 28, 2021 19:37 GMT

A team of researchers pointed out that the images made by Beijing-3 from an altitude of 500 kilometers have a resolution of 50 centimeters per pixel.

In just 42 seconds, a Chinese satellite captured images of a wide area around the city of San Francisco (California, USA) that would be sharp enough to identify a military vehicle on the street and know what kind of weapon it might carry, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.

Beijing-3, a small one-ton commercial satellite launched last June by the Asian giant, carried out an in-depth scan of the central area of ​​the San Francisco Bay, about 3,800 square kilometers. The scientists, who participated in the project, detailed that the images, taken from an altitude of 500 kilometers, have a resolution of 50 centimeters per pixel.

In addition, they noted that the performance test conducted over North America and other areas showed that the satellite could take images while her body rotated up to 10 degrees per second, a speed never seen before on a satellite. Most Earth observation satellites must be stable when taking images, since attitude control mechanisms can produce vibrations that blur the images.

“China started relatively late with agile satellite technology, but achieved a great number of advances in a short period of time,” said a team of researchers from the Beijing-based DFH Satellite Company, in an article published in the national magazine Spacecraft Engineering. “The level of our technology has reached a position of world leadership“he added.

The most agile satellite

Despite its small size and relatively low cost, Beijing-3 was considered the most agile satellite and could be one of the Earth’s observation satellites most powerful ever builtaccording to Yang Fang, the project’s principal investigator.

A satellite in the lowest orbit can normally observe a straight, narrow strip below it. You must circle the Earth several times or work with other satellites to cover a region of interest. The agility of the Beijing-3 allowed it to perform some observation tasks previously considered technically impossible. For example, it took images of the 6,300-kilometer-long Yangtze River between the Tibetan Plateau and the East China Sea during a single flight from north to south over China, experts said.

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With artificial intelligence technology on board, the satellite could independently plan its flight schedule to monitor up to 500 areas of interest around the world with almost 100 return visits a day.

In addition, it is capable of detecting the presence of certain targets and sending their photos to Earth. According to Yang and his colleagues, the response time of Beijing-3 is 2 to 3 times faster than WorldView-4, the most advanced observation satellite of our planet developed by the United States with similar technology, although this You can take slightly more detailed photos with a resolution of 30 centimeters per pixel.

The Earth observation market is dominated by the West

For his part, Qi Yimin, sales director of DFH Satellite Company, stated that although the Asian giant has caught up with technology, the world market for Earth observation is still dominated by the West. He noted that the images taken by Chinese satellites were used by more than 20,000 companies in the country and generated about $ 41 billion in annual revenue.

However, only a small number of countries – such as Egypt, India and the Netherlands – had purchased commercial satellite imagery from China. “The commercial satellites of our country started late, the industrial chain is not yet mature and the business is still in the initial phase of development “, concluded the specialist.

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