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China's Meridian Project Launches its 1st Sounding Rocket
    UPDATED: 2011-05-09
BEIJING, May 9 (China Space News) — China launched a sounding rocket from Hainan Island on May 7 as part of Meridian Project, with the rocket collecting scientific data as high as 196.6 km above the Earth.

Kunpeng No.1 dropsonde was piggybacked into space on a Tianying-3C rocket, which was developed by Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT).

The rocket carrying the dropsonde blasted off at 7 a.m. on May 7 from Hainan Sounding Rocket Base (HSRB) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Its trajectory was monitored and measured by high-dynamic GPS and the three-axis attitude parameters were recorded by a attitude measurement instrument.

The dropsonde is composed of a double-probe electric field instrument, an atmospheric trace-element detector and a Langmuir probe. It is the first time a double-probe electric field instrument and Langmuir probe -- jointly developed by China, Austria and Italy -- have been used by China to monitor the Earth's atmosphere and beyond.

The Meridian Project is a ground-based network program that monitors the solar-terrestrial space environment. The Project consists of a chain of ground-based observation stations, and is mainly located along the 120°E meridian -- thus its name.

AASPT developed the Meridian Project's sounding and meteorological rockets. The project's first sounding rocket was launched on June 3, 2010. The latest rocket can reach an altitude of over 190 km, compared to 20-60 km for the one launched last year. The latest rocket has been improved so it can monitor not only conditions of the atmosphere but also the ionosphere.

The launch marks a significant breakthrough in China's near space exploration as the success of the sounding rocket is expected to consolidate AASPT's leading position as a developer of solid propulsion technology for meteorological sounding rockets.