Mini-satel­lites sent aloft to im­prove VR

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By LI LEI [email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Hu­mans may be able to ex­pe­ri­ence a highly re­al­is­tic space en­vi­ron­ment in the near fu­ture be­cause of the ef­forts of a Chi­nese startup, Comm­sat Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Co, an in­no­va­tor of mini-satel­lites.

Lady­bee­tle I, a 91.85-kilo­gram satel­lite equipped with five high­def­i­ni­tion cam­eras, and an­other six smaller Lady­bee­tle minia­ture satel­lites were lifted into Earth or­bit on Fri­day af­ter­noon, the Bei­jing-based com­pany an­nounced.

Pic­tures taken by the five cam­eras will be stitched to­gether to make a sin­gle panorama, with the goal of pro­vid­ing a bet­ter space­walk ex­pe­ri­ence for users of vir­tual re­al­ity glasses on Earth, it said.

The Lady­bee­tle I, de­signed and as­sem­bled by Comm­sat, also carry a LED screen that could al­low peo­ple on Earth to take self­ies against the back­drop of mes­mer­iz­ing views in space, ac­cord­ing to Xu Ji­akang, one of the de­vices’ chief de­sign­ers.

“We could up­load one’s por­trait onto the screen, and then use the cam­eras on the satel­lite to take pho­tos of the screen in space,” he said.

Xu said the VR cam­eras and the Selfie screen were jointly de­vel­oped by Comm­sat, the China Acad­emy of Sci­ences’ Xi’an In­sti­tute of Op­tics and Pre­ci­sion Me­chan­ics and Xi’an CAS Tianta Tech­nol­ogy Co.

The Lady­bee­tle se­ries was launched atop a Long March 2D car­rier rocket from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter in north­west­ern China. Five other satel­lites were also aboard, in­clud­ing two low-or­bit re­mote-sens­ing satel­lites con­tracted by the King Ab­du­laziz Univer­sity for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy of Saudi Ara­bia, and three small satel­lites by Hu­nan Chang­sha Tianyi Re­search In­sti­tute.

Xie Tao, founder and CEO of Comm­sat, said the satel­lites are the first steps in the com­pany’s am­bi­tious plan to place 72 such craft into or­bit by 2022.

The seven Lady­bee­tle satel­lites would con­duct ex­per­i­ments in the in­ter­net of things and at­tempt to ful­fill a se­ries of tasks, such as trac­ing cargo ships and mon­i­tor­ing en­dan­gered wildlife, he said.

Peng Yuanyuan, Comm­sat’s co-founder, said an­other four satel­lites are ex­pected to be placed into or­bit by the end of 2019. Along­side the Lady­bee­tle satel­lites, they may be able to pro­vide com­mer­cial ser­vices, in­clud­ing mon­i­tor­ing over­seas pur­chases.

“Data will up­date ev­ery four hours to tell a cargo ship’s lo­ca­tion, as well as the tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity in­side the con­tain­ers and whether they’ve been opened or not,” she said.

The up­date fre­quency in­creases as more satel­lites join the net­work and ul­ti­mately will be able to achieve some­thing close to re­al­time mon­i­tor­ing, she added.

Founded in 2015, Comm­sat has been an in­no­va­tor in the use of mini-satel­lites. In Fe­bru­ary, the com­pany launched a CubeSat — Young Pi­o­neer I — which en­abled stu­dents to track and help control the space­craft from ground sta­tions built at schools na­tion­wide.

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