These 13 missions could be China’s next big space mission

China will select half a dozen space mission proposals in the coming months from a shortlist of 13 applicants, and could adopt their choices as early as 2024 for operations later this decade.

The 13 proposals belong to the Chinese New Horizon program and cover the fields of heliophysics, planetary sciences and astrophysics. An article entitled “China’s Space Science Program (2025-2030): Strategic Priority Program on Space Science (III)”, published in the Chinese Journal of Space Sciencedescribes these potential new missions.

In recent years, the nation has accelerated its presence in space with missions such as Tianwen-1 on Mars, Chang’e-4 on the far side of the Moon and the first spacewalk on their Tiangong space station. in low Earth orbit. The new document expands on the country’s ambitious plans.

A view of China’s Tianwen-1 probe, with Mars in the background. Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

According to the document, a panel of experts will evaluate the 13 proposals, prioritizing some ideas over others. These recommendations will then be forwarded to officials at the Chinese Academy of Sciences headquarters, who will narrow down the list and select five to seven to move forward. Then, in mid-2023, the New Horizon program, also known as Strategic Priority Program III or SPP III, will enter its next phase when officials determine a plan and budget for their choices. They aim to have this program approved by 2024, the document says.

“During the implementation of the mission, NSSC [National Space Science Committee]/CAS will continue to maintain the policy of openness, welcoming international cooperation at all levels, such as mission level, payload level or simply data sharing,” he said.

Left: China’s Chang’e-4 lander. Right: China’s Yutu-2 rover. Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Here is a list of the 13 candidate projects.

Three astrophysics missions are proposed.

  • Enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry Mission (eXTP)“a powerful X-ray observatory orbiting the Earth at 550 km, can continuously monitor the X-ray sky and enable multi-messenger studies for gravitational waves and neutrino sources.”
  • Dark Matter Particle Explorer-2 (DAMPE-2)designed to detect “possible gamma-ray and electron/positron characteristics from dark matter annihilation or decay…as well as transients associated with gravitational wave events, tidal disturbances, and neutrinos high energy”.
  • Discovery of the sky at the longest wavelength (DSL)a “linear array of micro-satellites placed in a lunar orbit” to “provide new information on the various astrophysical processes in planets and stars, the Milky Way, galaxies and supermassive black holes”.

Two exoplanet missions are proposed.

  • Near the Habitable Exoplanet Survey (CHES) missionwhich is “devoted to discovering the Earth-like planets of nearby solar-type stars” and performing a “census of nearby planetary systems”.
  • Mission Earth 2.0 (ET)designed to find “the elusive habitable Earth-like planets orbiting the stars like a sun”.

There are four proposed heliophysical missions.

  • Solar Ring Mission (SOR)which “aims to attack the origin [the] solar cycle, the origin of solar flares and the origin of extreme space weather conditions with the necessary instruments and in situ imagers.
  • Solar Observatory in Polar Orbit (SPO)which seeks to “directly image the solar poles in an unprecedented way…to build global heliospheric numerical models based on the data that serve as the basis for space weather forecasting.”
  • Earth-Occult Solar Eclipse Observatory (ESEO)“a solar telescope near the second Lagrange point (L2) of the Earth-Sun system exploiting the Earth’s occultation to explore the inner corona.”
  • Explorer of the Chinese Heliospheric Interstellar Medium (CHIME)which “could provide the first in situ measurements of pristine interstellar gas and dust in their high-density regions 2-3 AU from the Sun”.

There are four missions offered for the solar system and the earth.

  • E-Type Asteroid Sample Return (ASR) Mission“aimed to explore the E-type asteroid 1989 ML and return samples collected from up to three sites.”
  • Venus Volcano Climate Imaging and Exploration Mission (VOICE)“to study Venusian geological evolution, atmospheric thermochemical processes, surface-atmosphere interactions, habitable environment, and cloud life.”
  • Climate and Atmosphere Components Exploration Satellites (CACES)which would support “China’s goals of reaching carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060”.
  • Ocean Surface Currents Multi-Scale Observing Mission (OSCOM)“dedicated to the frontier of multi-scale ocean dynamics and energetics based on satellite Doppler oceanography”.

These 13 proposals were the winners of the previous stages of the program. SPP III had 17 proposals by the end of 2021, after soliciting concepts from research institutes, universities and industries across China, the document said.

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