Chinese microsatellite monitors polar regions | Polarjournal
In the past, Chinese scientists conducted polar research mainly based on data collected by ships and research stations. With the satellite “BNU 1”, Chinese scientists can observe areas that were previously inaccessible. (Photo:

After nine months in orbit, China’s first microsatellite, “BNU 1” or “Jingshi 1”, launched its observation mission in the Arctic and Antarctic. The main goal of the remote sensing equipment is to track ice drift and the thawing rate of icebergs, according to the Xinhua agency.

According to reports, the “Jingshi-1” satellite has a total weight of about 20 kg and is equipped with 2 optical cameras and 1 AIS receiver. Not only can it observe the polar regions, but it can also achieve medium-resolution image acquisition in every region of the world. (Photo:

“BNU 1 is expected to reach full coverage of the Arctic and Antarctic in five days,” said Chen Zhuoqi, the head of the operations team, who is also an associate professor at Sun Yat-Sen University’s School of Geospatial Engineering and Science. He also explained that the satellite’s observation capabilities will be tested during the mission.

After some tests and settings, the first images of Antarctica were transmitted. (Photo:

After a month of debugging and testing in orbit, the satellite sensors are in good operating condition. The first series of South Pole photos has already been received and processed, said Cheng Xiao, senior scientist of the satellite project and professor at Sun Yat Sen University.

The “BNU-1” microsatellite was placed in a 730-kilometre orbit on 12 September 2019. Since then, the satellite has fulfilled its observation mission, delivering over a thousand high-resolution photos of the surface of Antarctica.

Successful launch of the Jingshi-1 satellite (codenamed “BNU-1”) from the Long March 4B rocket at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China. Nine months later, the satellite provided the first images. (Photo:

The satellite was developed by Beijing Normal University in joint with Aerospace Dongfanghong Development in Shenzhen and industy association Changcheng. The satellite is controlled by the Joint Polar Research Centre set up by Chinese universities. The satellite weighs 20 kg and, according to its designers, is “able to fully cover both earth poles thanks to its high-resolution cameras.”

“BNU-1” also acts as a test satellite for a planned constellation of 24 Earth satellites, which can fully expand to guarantee 24-hour monitoring of the polar regions.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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