Space lab launches ‘Selfie Stick’

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By CHENG YINGQI chengy­ingqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Tiangong II space lab­o­ra­tory re­leased its com­pan­ion satel­lite, Banx­ing-2, at 7:31 am on Sun­day.

Weigh­ing 47 kilo­grams and roughly the size of a desk­top printer, the mi­crosatel­lite has a se­ries of vis­i­ble light cam­eras, in­clud­ing a 25 megapixel cam­era and wide-an­gle im­agers. Its mis­sion is to take pho­to­graphs of Tiangong II and the Shen­zhou XI space­craft, which docked with the lab on Wed­nes­day.

The satel­lite, which China Cen­tral TV has nick­named “Selfie Stick”, also has an in­frared cam­era that is tem­per­a­ture-sen­si­tive, said Chen Hongyu, chief en­gi­neer of the satel­lite pro­gram and a re­searcher with the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences’ Mi­crosatel­lite In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute.

“Like a pri­vate nurse for Tiangong II and Shen­zhou XI, the com­pan­ion satel­lite mon­i­tors their con­di­tions all the time, which is help­ful in de­tect­ing fail­ures,” he said.

With three so­lar pan­els, the satel­lite can also gen­er­ate enough power to ad­just its or­bit to shoot pic­tures of the lab and space­craft.

Its pre­de­ces­sor, Banx­ing-1, ac­com­plished the same mis­sion for Shen­zhou VII in 2008. The new model is smaller and has a higher ca­pac­ity.

Mi­crosatel­lites weigh 500 to 100 kilo­grams and are usu­ally cheaper, faster and more ad­vanced than tra­di­tional satel­lites. The com­mer­cial po­ten­tial has at­tracted much at­ten­tion from busi­nesses.

“If a com­pany can com­bine mi­crosatel­lites with internet ser­vices, it could pro­duce and launch per­son­al­ized satel­lites at a very low price,” said Wang Hui­quan, deputy direc­tor of Zhe­jiang Univer­sity’s Mi­crosatel­lite Re­search Cen­ter.

On Fri­day, the United States gov­ern­ment un­veiled a project aimed at boost­ing the com­mer­cial space in­dus­try by push­ing for NASA to in­vest $30 mil­lion in mi­crosatel­lites to al­low smaller com­pa­nies to en­gage in the in­dus­try.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The Banx­ing-2 mi­crosatel­lite will take pic­tures of the Tiangong II space lab and the Shen­zhou XI space­craft.

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