CBERS-4A (China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-4A)
Land surface topography
Earth surface albedo
Launched in 2019, the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-4A (CBERS-4A) is an optical imaging satellite collaboratively operated by the China Centre for Resources Satellite and Data Application (CRESDA) and the Instituto Nacional del Pesquisas Espacias (INPE) - Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research. CBERS-4A will be used to monitor water resources, agriculture, urban growth, and land use, with a large focus on the preservation of the Amazon rainforest.
|Mission status||Operational (nominal)|
|Launch date||20 Dec 2019|
|End of life date||20 Dec 2024|
|Measurement category||Vegetation, Albedo and reflectance, Landscape topography, Multi-purpose imagery (land)|
|Measurement detailed||Land surface topography, Earth surface albedo, Vegetation type, Land surface imagery|
|Instruments||MUX (CBERS-4A), DCS, WPM, WFI (CBERS-4A)|
|Instrument type||Imaging multi-spectral radiometers (vis/IR), Data collection, High resolution optical imagers|
|CEOS EO Handbook||See CBERS-4A (China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-4A) summary|
CBERS-4A has three imaging instruments on board:
- a high-resolution optical imager - Multispectral and Panchromatic Wide-Scan Camera (WPM);
- as well as two different multi-spectral radiometers, a Multispectral Camera (MUX) and a Wide Field Imager (WFI).
The data is used to monitor water resources, agriculture, urban growth and land use, with a large focus on controlling the deforestation and burning of the Amazon rainforest. The addition of CBERS-4A to the satellites observing Brazil is beneficial due to the high frequency of clouds in the Amazon region; the more satellites observing the area, the higher the chance of uninterrupted images. The data collected will be of large use to the national programs of Brazil, Prodes (measurement of deforestation by remote sensing) and Deter (Brazilian real-time deforestation detection).
All three instruments measure over three visible bands (blue, green, red) and one near infrared (NIR) band. WPM also observes over one panchromatic band with a spatial resolution of 2 m, and a resolution of 8 m for the visible and NIR bands. It has a swath width of 92 km. MUX has a resolution of 16 m and a swath width of 95 km, while WFI has a resolution of 55 m and a swath width of 684 km.
CBERS-4A undertakes a sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 629 km and an inclination of 97.9°. The satellite has a period of 97.3 minutes and a repeat cycle of 31 days.
Space and Hardware Components
The 1,730 kg satellite CBERS-4A was launched onboard a Long March 4B (LM-4B) launch vehicle from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Complex in Shanxi, China.
CBERS-4A (China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-4A)
The CBERS program was born out of a unique partnership between Brazil and China in the space technical and scientific sector for the primary remote sensing data generation technology, this partnership agreement involves INPE (National Institute for Space Research) and CAST (China Academy of Space Technology). 1)
The program is a family of remote sensing satellites CBERS (CBERS-1 and 2, CBERS-3 and 4) that brought significant scientific advances to Brazil. The INPE, using only the CBERS-4, has been distributed for free over the internet, with approximately 90,000 images. These images are being used in important fields such as controlling deforestation and burning in the Amazon, monitoring water resources, agriculture, urban growth, land use and education. They are also critical for large strategic national projects such as the Measurement of Deforestation by Remote Sensing (PRODES) and Brazilian Real-Time Deforestation Detection (DETER) and the monitoring of sugarcane areas, among others.
Both systems, DETER and PRODES, are affected by the high frequency of clouds over the Amazon region. So, to ensure that the monitoring and measurement of deforestation are feasible, it is necessary to have remote sensing data in spatial and temporal resolutions compatible with these phenomena. 2)
The requirement for a high rate of revisits and the need of controlling and data reception of other remote sensing satellites available in Brazil, for example, the Amazonia-1 – due to be concluded in 2019 - (5 days to revisit) impose challenges for the ground segment. As in previous missions, the Ground Segment is responsible for tracking and controlling the satellites CBERS during the routine phase, including the orbit adjustment manoeuvres to maintain the proper phase, which are made by Brazil, and by China, in alternating periods.
The Ground Segment has more and more served as cross-support and interoperability to space agencies, which requires an appropriate architecture to support them. The architecture proposal is based on the Dynamic Management of the Space Link Extension (SLE) Protocol Services. In this scenario, the CCSDS recommends normalizing cross-support services between the space agencies aiming at interoperability and standardization of data transfer services.
Mission and Project Description:
The CBERS-4A objective is to provide remote sensing images to observe and monitor vegetation - especially deforestation in the Amazon region - the monitoring of water resources, agriculture, urban growth, land use and education with a high revisit rate and considering the synergy with the existing programs PRODES and DETER.
CBERS-4A mission is an example of cooperation among the main areas of INPE. This project involves the Engineering and Space Technology; Satellite Tracking and Controlling, and Integration and Testing Laboratory as providers of solutions and the Earth Observation and Earth System Science areas as users.
The data from the CBERS Program are available to users in the online catalogue from INPE. The free offer of satellite images benefits the government's own territory management system, research universities and the development of private enterprises.
The specifications of the Sino-Brazilian satellite - remote sensing satellite medium resolution provided optical payloads operating in the visible spectrum with resolutions in the range of 2 to 60 meters - are similar to remote sensing programs most used worldwide, such as Landsat (United States), ResourceSat (India) and Copernicus (European Union).
The configuration of the CBERS-4A is similar to those of CBERS-3 & 4 satellites, with improvements to accommodate the new Chinese Imager camera that has superior quality in geometric and spectral resolution.
The satellite consists of two independent modules: a service Module and a Payload module, which houses image cameras and recording equipment and transmission of the image data.
In addition to the subsystems that make up the satellite, each country is responsible for providing a set of test equipment used to test the satellite during the assembly phase, Integration and Test (AIT).
CBERS-1, -2 and -2B
CBERS-3 and -4
The CBERS-4A/ZiyuanI-4A (CNSA S/C designation) satellite was launched on 20 December 2019 (03:22 UTC) from TSLC (Taiyuan Satellite Launch Complex) located in north China's Shanxi province, with a Long March 4B ( LM-4B) launch vehicle. 3)
The CBERS-4A will replace CBERS-4, which was launched in 2014, to improve the resolution of the remote-sensing data, said CNSA.
Orbit: Sun-synchronous near-circular orbit, altitude =628.6 km, inclination= 97.9º, LTDN (Local Time on Descending Node) at 10:30, repetition cycle = 31 days, orbital period = 97.25 minutes. The interval of three days between adjacent strips remains the same pattern as the previous imaging CBERS and allows phenomena occurring in areas adjacent to two imaging ranges may be viewed in a short time.
Secondary Payloads of Launch Vehicle
• ETRSS-1 (Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite-1), a multispectral microsatellite (70 kg), developed in collaboration with CAST and ESSTI (Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute) with the support of the Chinese government. Up to 20 Ethiopian aerospace engineers were involved in the preliminary and critical design and development of the satellite. The satellite will be used to monitor agricultural, water and urban development in Ethiopia.
• FloripaSat-1, a 1U CubeSat and a technology demonstration mission entirely developed by SpaceLab students at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil. The payload is an amateur radio repeater, which can be used all over the globe in emergency and rescue situations.
• Tianquin-1/CAS-6, a Chinese microsatellite (35 kg), carrying su-payload for amateur radio communication and education.
• Weilai-1R, a Chinese microsatellite (~40 kg) for space science experiments and remote sensing by CCTV (China Central Television).
• Yuheng, a small satellite technology demonstration mission of NUDT (National University of Defense Technology), China.
• Shuntian, a small satellite technology demonstration mission of NUDT, China.
• Tianyan-1 / Yizheng-1 and Tianyan-2 / Yizheng-2. Two Chinese small technology verification satellites for a future space-based gravitational wave detection constellation. Tianqin satellites will use inter-spacecraft laser interferometry to pick up the ripples in space-time, or gravitational waves, created by the collision of massive objects such as black holes.
• February 10, 2020: MCTIC (Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication) Minister Astronauta Marcos Pontes, INPE team, responsible for CBERS 04A and UFSC's team responsible for FloripaSat, participated in an audience with the President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro. 4)
- Moment for information exchange, congratulations and thanks for the services provided in the construction of the CBERS-4A Satellite from INPE / MCTIC and FloripaSat from UFSC and AEB / MCTIC.
- CBERS-4A is the sixth of the CBERS Program (Sino-Brazilian Earth Resources Satellite), signed with China in 1988. In Brazil, the activities are carried out by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and coordinated by the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB).
- The coordinator of the Space Segment of the CBERS Program, Antônio Carlos de Oliveira Pereira Júnior, was responsible for delivering a book in celebration of the 30 years of the Sino-Brazilian space partnership.
• January 7, 2020: The reception in Brazil of the first images of the satellite CBERS-4A occurred on December 27, 2019. After a week of testing with all satellite subsystems and the sequence of manoeuvres to put it into its nominal orbit, the three CBERS -4A cameras were connected in Brazil for 11 minutes from 10h56 to 11h07, local time in Brasilia. INPE’s ground station in Cuiaba, MT, received and recorded the raw data from WPM cameras, MUX and WFI, which were processed in São José dos Campos, SP. 5)
- The commissioning phase will start from now on and is expected to last for about three months.
The following images were observed with the CBERS-4A/ZiyuanI-4A mission instruments in China.
For the payload, Brazil is responsible for:
- the Multispectral Camera (MUX),
- the Wide Field Imaging Camera (WFI),
- the Digital Data Recorder (DDR)
- the Subsystem Data Collection (DCS),
while China is responsible for:
- the Data Transmitter System (DTS),
- Space Environment Monitor (SEM),
- Multispectral and Panchromatic Wide-Scan Camera (WPM)
- Wiring (SYCS).
The CBERS-04A satellite is equipped with cameras for optical observations from around the globe, as well as data collection and environmental monitoring services.
The application potential of a given sensor is a function of its spatial resolution characteristics, temporal resolution, and spectral and radiometric characteristics.
MUX (Multispectral Camera)
MUX is a Brazilian imager providing imagery of 16 m resolution at the nadir with revisits of 31 days.
Scanning technique: pushbroom with a swath width of 120 km, possible to be pointed within a field of regard of ± 500 km. MUX has a mass of 115 kg, a power consumption of 66 W and a data rate of 68 Mbit/s.
WFI (Wide Field Camera)
WFI is a Brazilian imager providing imagery of 55 m resolution with revisits of 5 days.
Scanning technique: pushbroom with a swath width of 800 km. The instrument has a mass of 43 kg, power consumption of 70 W and a data rate of 50 Mbit/s.
Effective focal length
FOV (Field of View)
55 m (nadir)
B13: 450 – 520 nm
Optical System MTF
> 0.65 at 38.5 lp/mm (all bands)
> 0.23 at 38.5 lp/mm for B13, B14 and B15 bands, and > 0.18 at 38.5 lp/mm for B16 band
< 7.0 %
Constant within ± 3.0%
< 5.2 µm
The mean temperature of operation
15ºC – 20ºC
WPM (Multispectral and Panchromatic Wide-Scan Camera)
WPM is a Chinese imager (developed at CAST) providing panchromatic imagery with 2 m resolution and multispectral RGB imagery of 8 m resolution. Scanning technique: Pushbroom, swath 60 km, possible to be pointed within a field of regard of ± 500 km. WPM has a mass of 263 kg, a power consumption of 80 W and a data rate of 240 Mbit/s. The WPM has focal plane adjustment and on-orbit calibration capabilities.
1 (Pan band)
DCS (Data Collection System)
Besides the cameras, CBERS 3&4 will have the DCS (Data Collection System) and the SEM (Space Environment Monitor). The DCS is provided by INPE and the SEM is provided by CAST (Chinese Academy of Space Technology).
The Reception and Data Recording Station - ERG INPE, in Cuiabá, MT receives and continuously records the images transmitted by the CBERS satellites.
The station consists of two subsystems reception and two recording subsystems.
- The reception subsystems are basically constituted by the antenna dish of 10 m in diameter operating in the S-band and X-band, the antenna dish of 11.28 m in diameter operating in X- the band and the respective Radio Frequency equipment.
- The recording subsystem consists of two subsystems, whose recording capacity of each is up to 160 Mbit/s, and the recording subsystem MATRA/CBERS is intended for the reception of CBERS images.
Regularly received data are transferred to the Image Processing Center Imaging Division in Cachoeira Paulista, in São Paulo State, for further processing and dissemination to end users. Figure 11 shows details of the Reception and Recording Station in the ground system.
TT&C Ground Station
The operation and control of the satellites CBERS program during the routine phase including the orbit adjustment manoeuvres to maintain the proper phase is made now by Brazil, now by China, in alternating periods, according to a unified program of the Center Xian Control.
The CBERS ground segment supports the activities necessary to control the satellites and to achieve the objectives of its remote sensing missions. This includes the means for tracking, commanding and control of the satellites and receiving, storing, processing and distributing the imagery.
The functions related to programming the operations of the satellite cameras in response to user requests are made by the Mission Center in Cachoeira Paulista. However, the central element of all operations relating to the CBERS satellite and its mission control is the Satellite Control Center (SCC).
The Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) Ground Stations provide the link between the control personnel and the satellite; they are the stations used for the acquisition of raw data from the CBERS data collection system in the S-band.
The Satellite Control Center receives a variety of satellite information that permits the operators to keep themselves fully informed about the status of the satellite equipment, allowing them to perform the necessary actions to ensure its proper operation.
The TT&C Ground Stations (GS) of INPE were built in 1988 to support the Data Collecting Satellite-1 (SCD1), which was launched in 1993. They operate in S-band and are located in the Brazilian cities of Cuiabá and Alcântara. TT&C GSs are in charge of establishing communication between the ground control system and the satellites monitored during the visibility periods.
Figure 12 shows the INPE’s Ground Station: SCC and the main systems of the GS: RF Front End, Receiver, Antenna Control Unit (ACU) and Time & Frequency. The functions of TM, TC, Ranging Data (RG), Range Rate (RR) and the SLE Provider are based on the Integrated Baseband System (IBS). The IBS allows the implementation of Space Link Extension (SLE) services for cross-support and interoperability between space agencies.
The SCC is responsible for planning and executing all activities related to satellite control and is the administrative headquarters. The SCC is located in the city of São José dos Campos, Brazil. The main functions of an SCC are:
- orbit and attitude control,
- manoeuvre calculations,
- operational payload configuration,
- real-time monitoring of the satellite health.
Over the structure of the SCC is embedded a software system, SATellite Control System (SATCS); developed by the Ground Systems Development Division (DSS) of coordination of Space Engineering and Technology at INPE. The SATCS is designed to be easily configurable and customized to meet the requirements of different satellite types.
The imagery receiving stations and processing centres in Brazil and China are the backbone of receiving stations that can be installed in other countries to extend the potential coverage of CBERS.
1) Antonio Cassiano Julio Filho, Ana Maria Ambrosio, Mauricio Gonçalves Vieira Ferreirac, Geilson Loureiro, ”The China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite - CBERS-4A: A proposal for Ground Segment based on the Space Link Extension Protocol Services,” Proceedings of the 70th IAC (International Astronautical Congress), Washington DC, USA, 21-25 October 2019, paper: IAC-19.B6.1.12, URL: https://iafastro.directory/iac/proceedings/IAC-19
2) Antonio Cassiano Julio Filho, Ana Maria Ambrosio, Maurício Gonçalves V. Ferreira, Eduardo WhitakerBergamini, ”New Challenges for Dynamic Management of the Space Link Extension Protocol Services: The Amazonia-1 Satellite’s Ground Segment,”Space Ops Conference, Marseille, France, 28 May - 1 June 2018, URL: https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/pdf/10.2514/6.2018-2315
3) ”New China-Brazil earth resource satellite sent into space,” Xinhuanet, 23 December 2019, URL: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/20/c_138645961.htm
4) ”Special meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro and the Brazilian Space Sector,” INPE, 10 February 2020, URL: http://www.cbers.inpe.br/noticias/noticia.php?Cod_Noticia=5370
5) ”INPE reveals first CBERS-4A satellite images,” MundoGEO, 7 January 2020, URL: https://mundogeo.com/en/2020/01/07/inpe-reveals-first-cbers-4a-satellite-images/
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).