Chinese scientists are working on the development of high resolution imaging from high orbit.
China's Xinhua news agency reported last week that researchers at the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP) are studying camera technologies that could be used for satellites 36,000 kilometers away from Earth.
The project has "significant government support" and the scientists are confident of making technological breakthroughs over the next four years that would enable cameras to see car-sized objects on the Earth from high orbit.
According to Xinhua, CIOMP aims to achieve an optical resolution of 2.5 meters for the camera. This is the equivalent of seeing a hair clearly from 800 meters away, the news agency explained.
The technologies being researched at CIOMP will enable cameras to operate on satellites in geostationary orbit, allowing the cameras to appear stationary in the sky and view the same point on Earth continuously.
China already has high-resolution imaging in space, but it operates at a lower orbit of several hundred kilometers away from Earth. Satellites in low orbit constantly move around the planet and can only take snapshots of any one location as they pass by.
CIOMP deputy head Zhang Xuejun told Xinhua that the Institute has considerable experience in this area and is confident of completing the research by the end of 2020.
Founded in 1952, CIOMP focuses on luminescence, applied optics, optical engineering, and precision mechanics and instrumentation. More than 2,000 professionals currently work at CIOMP, including four Chinese Academy of Sciences academics, 229 professors and 587 associate professors.