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China built a satellite that can capture high-quality images of entire cities.
Business Insider summarized:
The commercial Beijing-3 satellite, launched by China in June, conducted an in-depth scan of a 1,470 square-mile area in the San Francisco Bay. The satellite captured the area within 42 seconds, The South China Morning Post first reported, citing results published this month in the Chinese peer-reviewed journal Spacecraft Engineering.
Beijing-3 has a unique advantage up its sleeve: It can pitch and yaw at up to 10 degrees per second while not compromising image quality as it orbits the Earth, said lead scientist Yang Fang, who headed the project run by DFH Satellite Company under the Chinese Academy of Space and Technology.
Normally, satellite cameras have to be kept still when they take high-definition images, and thus can only observe straight strips of land as they orbit above the area. So they sometimes have to fly over a region multiple times to scan the whole area or work in tandem with other satellites.
Business Insider noted that although the image quality produced by Beijing-3 does not yet rival American satellites such as Lockheed Martin’s Worldview-4, the Chinese satellite’s response time is doubly or triply as fast.
In a panel interview moderated by CNN reporter Kristin Fisher earlier this month, Gen. David Thompson — vice chief of space operations for the United States Space Force — warned that China is advancing its space technology at a far faster pace than the United States.
“The fact, that in essence, on average, they are building and fielding and updating their space capabilities at twice the rate we are means that very soon, if we don’t start accelerating our development and delivery capabilities, they will exceed us,” Thompson said, predicting that China could overtake the United States in space capabilities by 2030.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) argued that the United States must therefore expand the Space Force’s budget.
“It’s great that the private sector is so much more innovative than our Air Force was, and we need to get the Space Force to be much more innovative and try to keep up with the private sector,” Cooper said. “To really be superior, we’ve got to go beyond Elon Musk’s imagination, Jeff Bezos’ imagination, beyond their pocketbooks. [The] budget right now is $17 billion — that’s a lot of money, but considering how crucial space is, are we doing enough?”
In a separate interview with outgoing Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, Thompson said that the United States will counter China with new technologies.
“The term we use is resilience, and we make it such that it’s too hard, too expensive, and too unlikely that they’ll succeed in creating a — the effect they want because, rather than the past, when we’ve had a small number of very sophisticated, very capable satellites, we now intend to field more and more and more lower-cost, lower-capable that provide, in aggregate, the same capability,” Thompson explained. “Therefore, there’s not as much value in attempting to attacking them in space.”