Teens’ mini-satellite now sending signals
Students at Beijing’s Bayi School, President Xi Jinping’s alma mater, have a new reason to boast: They worked with space scientists to develop and launch Chinese teenagers’ first satellite, which is now orbiting hundreds of kilometers above Earth.
The 2.4-kg mini-satellite, Bayi Youngsters’ Expedition, was launched atop a Long March 2D carrier rocket on Wednesday morning from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province. The major task of the launch was to lift two commercial Earthobservation satellites that are much larger and heavier.
The mini-spacecraft has a designed life span of 180 days in a sun-synchronous orbit and then will be controlled to fly back into the atmosphere to burn out so it won’t become space debris, said Zhou Xiubin, a senior researcher at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp who oversees the project.
He said the satellite has equipment to take pictures of the ground and to conduct radio communication and audio transmission experiments.
The spacecraft and instruments were designed and assembled by about 40 Bayi students instructed by more than 20 experts at the China Center for Aerospace Science and Technology International Communications, where Zhou is a deputy director, as well as the China Academy of Space Technology and Nanjing University of Science and Technology.
“Students who were at a ground tracking and control station in Kashgar (in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region) received signals sent from the satellite as soon as it started to orbit Earth yesterday,” he said on Thursday. “It is working well. Now we can call the project a success.”
Zhu Kai, vice-dean of Bayi School, said his students plan to use the spacecraft to observe Earth and to transmit Chinese songs back to Earth. He said the school will take advantage of the satellite to popularize space knowledge.
Bayi School has built a ground tracking and control station on its campus and is training its students to use the facility, according to Zhu.
Before Wednesday’s launch, President Xi sent a letter to students at Bayi School who are taking part in the project, saying he was pleased with their passion and bravery in the exploration of science and technology.
Xi also said he hopes the students will remian interested in exploring new things.
Yang Shangwen, a satellite designer who mentored students in the satellite’s development, said that the United States, Russia and Israel are among other countries that have launched satellites designed by teenagers. He said the Chinese students were selected from applicants according to their academic performance in science and innovation.
Xu Yifei, a Bayi student and member of the development team, said she helped design the satellite’s power system. She also has applied to take part in the tracking work because “I have been charmed by the beauty of space exploration and want very much to continue to be part of the satellite’s operations”.