Brazil and China successfully launched on Sunday, December 7, 2014, the CBERS-4 satellite at 1:26 a.m. Brazilian time (03:26 UTC) from the LC9 launch complex at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China, 700 km from Beijing, informs Defesanet[1]. The satellite entered orbit 12 minutes after launch, and is now sending signals to Earth.

CBERS-4 is the fifth satellite in the Chinese-Brazilian Earth Resource Satellite (CBERS) program which started in 1988. Due to the success of CBERS-1 and 2, the two governments decided in 2002 to give continuity to the CBERS program by signing a new agreement for the development and launching of two more satellites, CBERS-3 and 4, explains the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE)[2].

The first, CBERS-1, was launched in October 1999 with the second and third, CBERS-2 and CBERS-2B, launched in 2003 and 2007. CBERS-3 was launched in December 2013 from the Taiyuan complex, but failed to enter orbit after a rocket malfunction. There is currently an agreement in place to build CBERS-5, which is expected to be launched in 2017[3].

The CBERS satellites are used in planning and land management, forestry, water conservation, environmental protection and agriculture. The CBERS-4 “will perform a complete revolution around the Earth every 100 minutes, will be monitoring deforestation in the Amazon, mapping of agriculture and expansion of cities and will also make studies of watersheds and forest fires”[4].

According to NASA, “the planned cooperative program of CAST [China Space] and INPE employs enhanced versions of spacecraft and instruments”[5]. China has now become the third country, after the United States and Russia, to complete 200 carrier rocket launches, Lei Fanpei, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) – the main contractor for the space program – declared for Xinhua[6]. The December 7 mission was a milestone 200th launch of the Long March rocket family since April 24, 1970 when a Long March-1 successfully carried China's first satellite, Dongfanghong-1, into space[7]. China demonstrates increased space capabilities, and the country’s “growing ability to counter U.S. technologies and capabilities in space poses a real danger to America’s military superiority in the Asia-Pacific region”, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace[8].

Brazil’s cooperation with China in the space sector may lead to an improvement of Brazil’s capabilities in this domain, in the long run. Several phases of the country’s space program have faced significant international pressure, for example a United States-pushed technological boycott on the country’s Vehicle Launch System program employing dual-use technology[9], hampering the advance of the Brazilian space program as a whole[10]. Brazilian specialists underlined in recent years that “the CBERS space cooperation program can be considered a success”[11]. If it continues to be effective, it may significantly contribute to enhancing Brazil’s space capabilities of all sorts, and consequently the country’s national power and its ability to play a more and more important  role on the international arena.


[1] “CBERS-4 - EM órbita e envia sinais para a terra”, Defesanet, December 7, 2014, at the Internet address

[2] CBERS 3 and 4 Launching, Brazilian National Institute For Space Research, December 8, 2014, at the Internet address

[3]  “China Focus: China launches CBERS-4 on 200th Long March mission”, Xinhua Net, December 7, 2014, at the Internet address

[4] “CBERS-4: China-Brazilian satellite launched into space”, Braznu Magazine, December 7, 2014, at the Internet address

[5] Rui C. BARBOSA, “200th Long March rocket launches CBERS-4 for Brazil”, NASA Space Flight, December 6, 2014, at the Internet address

[6] “China Focus: China launches CBERS-4 on 200th Long March mission”, Xinhua Net, op. cit.

[7] Ibidem

[8] Ashely J. TELLIS, “Does China Threaten the United States in Space?”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 28, 2014,  at the Internet address

[9] Sean MITCHELL, “Relaunching Alcantara: Space, Race, Technology, and Inequality in Brazil”, Pro Quest LLC, Chicago, 2008,  p. 70 and José MEIRELLES PASSOS, “EUA tentaram impedir programa brasileiro de foguetes, revela WikiLeaks”, O Globo, January 25, 2011, at the Internet address

[10] Amit GUPTA, “Building an Arsenal: The Evolution of Regional Power Force Structures”, Praeger Publishers, Westport, 1997, p. 154

[11] Otavio DURÃO, “Planning and strategic orientations of the Brazilian space program”, in Eligar SADEH (Editor), Space Strategy in the 21st Century: Theory and Policy, Routledge, 2013, pp. 335-346

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