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50th Anniversary of Fengyun Satellite Program

Source:China Meteorological News Press09-10-2020

This year marks the 50th anniversary of China’s Fengyun Satellite Program. Up to now, China has launched 17 Fengyun meteorological satellites in total, with 7 in orbit. The Chinese meteorological satellites Fengyun, or FY in acronym, are arranged in series. The odd number series is the polar-orbiting satellite series, and the even number series is the geostationary ones.

Layout of Fengyun meteorological satellites in 2020 

Fengyun Satellite Program

Development and implementation of Fengyun Satellite Program is a national cause upon which pools the efforts from many institutions that undertake the production of satellite and carrier rocket, launching, telemetry & control, as well as the ground application. It is by the concerted endeavor of them that a complete meteorological satellite application system has been established. National Satellite Meteorological Center (NSMC) of China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has become the operator of both polar-orbiting and geostationary meteorological satellites. Fengyun satellites are becoming ever more important in protecting life and property of people from natural disasters. 

Through these years’ hard work, a comprehensive meteorological satellite ground application system with complex technologies and cutting-edge functions has been established. The system has realized the stable and reliable operation, with the operational success rate maintaining over 99% for a long term. FY satellite data is one of the major assimilation data of the numerical weather prediction (NWP) independently developed by China. There are also together 2600 domestic users in terms of fields like ocean, agriculture, forestry, and ecological environment and others. The input and output ratio has surpassed 1:40.

The first color composite image of FY-1A satellite

The first color composite image of FY-1B satellite 

Polar-orbiting satellites

CMA started to develop its polar-orbiting meteorological satellites in the 1960s. FY-1 series are CMA's first-generation sun-synchronous orbiting meteorological satellites made in two groups. Each group has two satellites. FY-1A and FY-1B in the first group were launched on September 7, 1988 and September 3, 1990, respectively. FY-1C and FY-1D in the second group were separately launched on May 10, 1999 and May 15, 2002.

The first color composite image of FY-1C satellite 

The first color composite image of FY-1D satellite

The satellites in the second group of FY-1 satellites are designed with an enhanced reliability of attitude control system and improved performance of scanning radiometer, with channel numbers increased from the original 5 to 10. The high resolution picture transmission (HRPT) rate is also doubled from 0.6654Mbps to 1.3308Mbps. The satellites are installed with a solid state memory device to achieve the delay image transmission (DPT). The improvements have greatly enhanced the satellites' performance, with their working life exceeding the 2-year design span. 

On May 27, 2008, FY-3A satellite was successfully launched.

Monitoring image of volcano in Iceland captured by FY-3A satellite

FY-3 satellites are CMA's second-generation polar-orbiting meteorological satellites, with greatly enhanced functionalities and technical capabilities. They are designed to enhance China's three-dimensional atmospheric sounding capability and global data acquisition capability, to collect more data of cloud and surface characteristics, from which meteorologists may infer out atmospheric, land surface and sea surface parameters that are global, all-weather, three-dimensional, quantitative, and multi-spectral.

Multi-channel composite image of forest condition in California State,United Stated captured by FY-3B satellite in 2017

Monitoring image of severe convection cloud cluster over Nepal captured by FY-3C satellite in 2015

Monitoring image of tropical storm Idai captured by FY-3D satellite in 2019

With the capability to provide global, all-weather, multi-spectral, three-dimensional, and accurate observations of atmospheric, oceanic, and land surface conditions, the FY-3 satellite series can make valuable contributions to improving weather forecasts and natural-disaster and environmental monitoring in China, the rest of Asia, and the whole world.

Geostationary meteorological satellites

CMA started to develop its geostationary meteorological satellites and associated ground application systems from the 1980s. CMA launched its first geostationary meteorological satellite FY-2A satellite on June 10, 1997.

FY-2G satellite was successfully launched.

First color composite image of FY-2G satellite

First infrared images of FY-2G satellite

Monitoring image of typhoon Khanun captured by FY-2G satellite in 2017

FY-2 series are CMA’s first-generation geostationary meteorological satellites. From the first one in 1997, CMA has altogether lifted off eight FY-2 satellites and has forged an operational layout of multiple in-orbit satellites, mutual backup, coordinated operation, and timely intensive observation.

FY-2H geostationary meteorological satellite

FY-2H satellite was launched.

On 21:07 p.m. BJT, June 5, 2018, FY-2H satellite, carried by a Long March-3A rocket, was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province. As the westernmost on-duty satellite in geostationary meteorological satellites layout of CMA, it can provide custom-made services for countries along “Belt and Road” territories.

FY-2H satellite coverage after it is moved westward by 7.5°, to 79°East
Monitoring image of typhoon Yutu captured by FY-2H satellite in 2018
“Belt and Road” territories are lacking in meteorological data and particularly subject to natural disasters. At the request of WMO, the FY-2H satellite was moved westward by 7.5°, to 79°East. It will be of vital significance to addressing data acquisition and application in geostationary meteorological satellites for countries along “Belt and Road” territories. This move has also further optimized the orbital layout of FY series meteorological satellites, better covered upper reaches weather systems in China, and ramped up weather prediction accuracy and reinforced response to climate change. FY-2H satellite has realized the sustained observation of one third of the Earth’s territories from Oceania to Central Africa and can provide favorable observation perspectives and custom-made high frequency sub-regional observation for countries and regions like West Asia, Central Asia, Africa, and Europe. Equipped with a scanning radiometer and space environment monitor, FY-2H satellite can supply dozens of remote sensing products like cloud images, clear sky atmospheric radiation, sand and dust, and Cloud Motion Wind (CMW) for weather prediction, disaster warning, and environmental monitoring, and enrich data sources of global numerical weather prediction (NWP) models.
Monitoring image of rare two tropical cyclones over Indian Ocean captured by FY-2H satellite in 2018
Infrared channel monitoring image of flooding in southwestern Iran captured by FY-2H satellite in 2019
On December 11, 2016, FY-4A satellite was launched. Credits: Xinhuanet

First color composite image of FY-4A satellite

Convection storm products of FY-4A satellite

With the Emergency Support Mechanism for International Users of FengYun Meteorological Satellites in Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, if countries along the “Belt and Road” territories or APSCO member states are gripped by disasters like typhoons, rainstorms, sandstorms and forest or prairie fires, they can apply to activate dedicated observation by FY satellites.

Monitoring image of polar vortex in Antarctica captured by FY-4A satellite in 2017

Monitoring image of typhoon Maria captured by FY-4A satellite in 2018

Application of Fengyun Satellites

Fengyun Satellites have played a tremendous role in monitoring and observation, response to climate change, and meteorological disaster preparedness. For instance, monitoring data provided by FY-4A satellite plays a paramount role in weather prediction and underpins objective and quantitative analysis. Satellite monitoring data will reflect weather systems and their features and changes on satellite cloud images more accurately. By means of data assimilation technology, satellite monitoring data can be incorporated into NWP and further elevate prediction accuracy.

Monitoring image of typhoon Lekima and Krosa captured by FY-4A satellite in 2019

Monitoring image of typhoon Hagupit captured by FY-4A satellite in 2020 

Advanced Geosynchronous Radiation Imager (AGRI) onboard FY-4A satellite has refined spatial resolution from 5 kilometers to 2 kilometers. Observation temporal resolution targeted at China and neighboring regions have been shortened from 30 minutes to 5 minutes. When required to meet specific observation demand, data can be transmitted in a shorter time. FY-4A satellite can provide myriad high spatial and temporal resolution observation information for monitoring the trend and intensity transition of typhoon, and weather system evolution in neighboring environmental field.

Monitoring image of typhoon Jangmi captured by FY-4A meteorological satellite in 2020

FY-4A satellite can also provide 500-meter high spatial and temporal resolution images, which reflect refined dynamic information like typhoon cloud structure and its evolution, especially the monitoring of typhoon eye area. In terms of environmental monitoring, FY-4A satellite has expanded the operation of haze monitoring. Ecological environmental team has conducted product development work of multiple image making and quantifiable monitoring. FY-4A identification accuracy of sand and dust has been markedly enhanced as well. The newly developed index product has played an active role in sand and dust monitoring.

Since the beginning of 2017, CMA has developed the FY-4A products and data test application in the field of special and public meteorological services, and plans to establish new satellite products, including technical methods and operational systems towards solar energy resources observation and short-term forecast, highway road temperature monitoring, forest fire risk monitoring and forecasting, aviation meteorological services and lightning monitoring and early warning. Now, FY-4 satellite weather modification application demonstration project has also been fully launched, which has injected new vitality into the weather modification operation. FY-4 satellite macro-microscopic cloud feature parameters and weather modification clouds classification.

True color & cloudtop height monitoring image of cyclone storm Amphan captured by FY-4A satellite in 2020

Fengyun satellites play an instrumental role in global observation and disaster preparedness

Chinese President Xi Jinpin expressed on a few international occasions that China will offer meteorological services to all parties through its Fengyun satellites, like Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Arab states, and African countries. CMA has taken many measures to implement relative programs and push ahead the development of Fengyun satellite.

A national satellite remote sensing application system composed of a national-level data processing and service center, 31 provincial application center, and over 2500 reception and application stations has been forged. Fengyun Meteorological Satellite System is one of the major components in the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)’s Space-based Observing System as well as the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.

Currently, CMA is providing satellite data and over 100 products to more than 100 countries or territories by CMACast, direct broadcast receiving systems and the Internet. The Fengyun satellites has benefits 115 countries and territories. In 2019, the satellite data sharing services volume added up to 5.4 PB. CMA also provides intensive observation service as requested by launching Emergency Support Mechanism of FengYun Satellites.

Fengyun satellite user conference in 2019

In 2019, CMA provided Fengyun satellite services for countries like Mozambique to cope with the severe flooding affected by tropical cyclone Idai. Confronted with the COVID-19, WMO has listed Fengyun satellite monitoring products as one of the major resources to help other countries elevate monitoring capacities of meteorological hazards, like the flooding in southern Iran, desert locust in Pakistan, and the cyclone storm in Bay of Bengal. Monitoring of disasters by Fengyun satellites have showcased China’s strong sense of assuming international responsibility.Fengyun meteorological satellite data acquisition services are provided to international users via CMACast, and the internet.

FY-4A satellite is capable of real-time monitoring for air quality and forest fire.  

Right now, 25 neighboring countries and territories, like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Pakistan, and others have set up CMACast data reception stations, obtained Fengyun meteorological cloud images and products data. Those data have played their role in monitoring, tracking, and early warning of severe weather like typhoon, rainstorm, and sand and dust storm. CMA has also opened green data channel, developed tailor-made software and products, assisted the construction of direct receiving stations, organized training courses, and continued to provide custom-made services for users along “Belt and Road” territories.

On the strength of advanced technology caliber, stable and reliable operation, and high quality data products, Fengyun satellites, together with meteorological satellites from the United States and Europe, have become the main player in the global earth observation network, and shouldered the responsibility of carrying out all-weather, dimensional, and continuous observation of atmosphere, ocean and surface ground environment.

Editor: Liu Shuqiao