Tiangong-2 launches satellite “Selfie stick”

World Today


On Sunday morning, China’s Tiangong-2 spacelab launched Banxing-2, a miniature companion satellite for capturing high-resolution images and video of the orbiting spacelab.

The companion satellite will orbit at a distance of about 500 km from Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11. Its purpose is to visually document the vessels from various angles and distances and will use a 25-megapixel camera equipped with a fisheye lens. The Banxing-2 is also equipped with infrared thermal imaging sensors, which will be used to monitor the condition and maintenance of the lab, according to Chen Hongyu, an engineer with CAS.

View of Tiangong-2 from Banxing-2

Banxing-2 snaps Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 using a fisheye camera. (Photo: CAS)

The micro-satellite has been given the nickname in China as a space ‘selfie stick’.

The imaging satellite is only 40 kilograms and is the size of an average desktop printer. Despite its small size, the Banxing-2 is capable efficient orbit control, transmitting data at high speeds, and has stronger computer processing than its previous model that accompanied the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft. Its functions are powered by three solar panels.

Banxing-2 diagram

After the launch at 7:31 a.m. Sunday, Shenzhou-11 astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong captured video of the satellite with a hand-held camera as it flew beneath them.

Towards the end of October, the imaging satellite is scheduled to move closer to Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11, and will take more detailed photographs with its high-resolution camera.

Story written with information from Xinhua, CAS, and CCTV.