Tuesday, November 29

The Chinese “spy satellite” Beijing-3 is able to capture part of San Francisco in seconds and with a spectacular level of detail

42 seconds. That was the time it took for the small and agile Chinese satellite Beijing-3 to capture in great detail an area of ​​3,800 km² of the San Francisco Bay area.

The demonstration of its ability has surprised the experts, especially since most observing satellites must be totally stable to avoid blurry images. The Beijing-3 does not care about that, and is able to turn and tilt quickly or change the angle of its camera. by capturing large areas of our planet. Larger, in fact, than could be calculated so far in just a few seconds.

One pass is enough

The satellite demonstrated its capacity in its orbit of about 500 km, and the resulting image had a resolution of 50 cm per pixel. The Beijing-3 thus proved to be able to take images while rotating at speeds of up to 10º per second., a milestone for this type of scenario.

Normally satellites in these low orbits would need to circle the Earth several times to cover a large region: they are only able to observe a very narrow “strip” of Earth on their paths. Beijing-3 is capable of making the same observation in one go thanks to that ability to turn around and capture the area without problems.

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One of the key components of that advance is in artificial intelligence technology which allows the Beijing-3 to monitor up to 500 areas of interest and revisit them 100 times a day.

The satellite is not able to read the license plates of the cars, but the images do have enough detail to identify if there are military vehicles on the streets of a city that indicate possible troop deployments.

The response time of the Beijing-3 it is in fact between two and three times higher than that of WorldView-4, evolution of the WorldView-3 that we talked about years ago and that until now was considered the most advanced Earth observation satellite in the world. While the latter has a scanning band of 13 km, the Chinese satellite – which is also half its weight – has a scanning band of 23 km.

Still the WorldView-4 satellite is superior in terms of detail: its telescope is capable of deliver images at a resolution of 30 cm per pixel. The Chinese satellite is based on a new platform called CAST3000 that allows to have a structure of solar panels that does not shake when the satellite is turned quickly and sharply.

Beijing-3 poses a turning point in observing satellite technology in China, a country that until now it had no real competitors for satellites developed mainly in the United States, but with this model it takes an important leap in this area.

Via | SCMP