China’s Tiangong-1 is now in an extended application phase – including use for Earth remote sensing.  Credit: CMSE

China’s Tiangong-1 is now in an extended application phase – including use for Earth remote sensing.
Credit: CMSE

China’s Tiangong-1 “target spacecraft” used for the country’s human spaceflight program is now in an extended application phase – including use for Earth remote sensing.

Tiangong-1 is churning out “hyperspectral” imaging products, collecting information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Launched on September 29, 2011, Tiangong-1 — meaning “Heavenly Palace 1″ — is China’s first space station and has been used for three rendezvous and docking missions: Shenzhou 8, 9 and 10.

After its use for a successful docking involving Shenzhou 10, Tiangong-1 entered the in-orbit operation management phase on June 27, 2013. Since then, now for over two-and-a-half years, Tiangong-1 has undergone switches in its flying mode, orbit maintenance maneuvers, and other activities.

Tiangong-1 is churning out “hyperspectral” imaging products, collecting information from across the electromagnetic spectrum. Credit: Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Tiangong-1 is churning out “hyperspectral” imaging products, collecting information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.
Credit: Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Application benefits

According to the China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE) Office the still-orbiting module is outfitted with payloads such as Earth observation instrumentation and space environment detectors.

“Tiangong-1 has obtained a great deal of application and science data, which is valuable in mineral resources investigation, ocean and forest application, hydrologic and ecological environment monitoring, land use, urban thermal environment monitoring and emergency disaster control. Remarkable application benefits have been achieved,” the CMSE has stated.

For example, Tiangong-1 provided timely hyperspectral observation data during China’s Yuyao flood disaster last year and image data during a devastating Australia forest fire.

Commercial agents

The weight of Tiangong-1 is about 8 tons, and its main body is a short and thick cylinder, with a docking port on its front and rear ends. The two-modules are an experiment module and resource module.

As authorized by the China Manned Space Agency, and the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the processing and distribution of Tiangong-1 application data is underway. It provides public users with data in Grade-1 and Grade-2, free of charge.

Commercial agents of Tiangong-1 application data are providing paid data service for domestic and international commercial users.

China is expected to continue its forward progress in space station development by lofting the Tiangong-2 space lab next year, sharpening its space skills to further the building of a larger space station in 2020.

Tiangong-2 space lab undergoes testing for expected launch next year. Credit: CASC, SpaceChina.com

Tiangong-2 space lab undergoes testing for expected launch next year.
Credit: CASC, SpaceChina.com

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