First Sino-European space mission to blast off
( 2003-12-29 09:57) (China Daily by Zhao Huanxin)
Chinese scientists are putting the final touches on a rocket launching pad expected to send the first Sino-European joint space probe into orbit, a spokesman said at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre yesterday.
The carrier rocket, Long March 2C/SM, and the satellite - Probe-1 (codenamed TC-1) - are technically ready for the mission scheduled for late today or tomorrow, the China National Space Administration said over the weekend.
Probe-1, the first of two Chinese-made satellites known as Double Star, carries instruments developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said Liu Zhenxing, chief scientist of the Double Star Programme.
It is the first time European experiments have integrated with Chinese satellites, said sources with the administration. The satellite, weighting 335 kilograms, will fly as far as 66,970 kilometres from the Earth, further than any other in China's space history, according to Liu.
Liu, who proposed the Double Star Programme four years ago, said the equator-range satellite, together with a polar-range satellite to be blasted off in mid-2004, will cruise space other exploration satellites have not covered.
Under an agreement the ESA and China signed in 2001, the two-satellite missions will work in tandem with a mini-flotilla of four identical spacecraft the European agency launched in 2000 in its Cluster II Programme, said Liu.
The Double Star project will study the Earth's magnetic field from a perspective which is different from that of Cluster's but complementary to it, the ESA said in a news release carried on its official website www.esa.int.
"Cluster and Double Star spacecraft will co-ordinate their investigations and help us gain a much better understanding of the processes taking place above Earth," the ESA said.
Liu earlier said he expected findings on the activities of electromagnetic fields and energy particles while improving the country's ability to accurately forecast space environmental changes.
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