Beijing: China has launched a new data
relay satellite "Tianlian I-02" which would be part of a
network to provide data relay and measurement and control
service for China`s spacecrafts and planned space stations.
The satellite was launched on a Long March-3C carrier
rocket last night from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in
southwest Sichuan Province.
Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology
under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation,
the satellite is the country`s second data relay satellite.
China launched its first data relay satellite
"Tianlian I-01" on April 25, 2008.
The two satellites will form a network to offer data
relay and measurement and control service for China`s
spacecrafts and planned space stations, according to the
They will help to accomplish China`s first space
docking, scheduled for the second half of 2011.
China plans to launch Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8
spacecraft in the latter half of this year, and they will
perform the nation`s first space docking.
The fresh launch is the 140th mission of China`s Long
March series of rocket.
Two more Shenzhou spaceships will dock with Tiangong-1
next year, and one will be manned by two or three astronauts,
according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office, which
was the main user of the Tianlian I series data relay
"The launch of the satellite is of great significance
to improve the efficiency of tracking and commanding
spaceships," Pang Zhihao, a researcher and deputy editor-in
-chief of the magazine Space International, told China Daily.
Pang said the new satellite could cover a greater area
to track and command the country`s space vehicles in low-Earth
orbits, such as manned spacecraft and remote sensing
satellites,from a higher position in outer space.
"Only three satellites of this kind are needed to form
a global communication network, and China has two now," he
The satellite could also facilitate real-time
communications with the astronauts, which will benefit the
country`s future manned space flights, he said.
The world`s first data relay satellite was launched by
the United States in 1983. The US now has six such satellites.