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China plans 5 new space science satellites

Updated: Jun 1,2016 2:29 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — China will put into space five new satellites within about five years as part of the country’s fast-expanding space science program, a science chief said on June 1.

The five satellites, including a Sino-European joint mission known as SMILE, will focus on observation of solar activities and their impact on the Earth environment and space weather, analysis of water recycling and probing of black holes, according to Wu Ji, director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

They should make major breakthroughs in these fields, Wu said.

Of the five satellites, SMILE, or “Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer,” is set to blast off in 2021. The satellite is designed to study the effects of the sun on the Earth’s environment and space weather by creating images of the interactions between solar winds and the Earth’s magnetosphere with X-ray and ultraviolet technology.

MIT, the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere coupling exploration, aims at investigating the origin of upflow ions and their acceleration mechanism and discover the key mechanism for the magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere coupling.

And WCOM, the Water Cycle Observation Mission, is a bid to better understand the Earth’s water cycle by simultaneous and fast measurement of key parameters such as soil moisture, ocean salinity and ocean surface evaporation.

The other two satellites are the Advanced Space-borne Solar Observatory (ASO-S) and the Einstein-Probe. The former will help scientists understand the causality among magnetic fields, flares and coronal mass ejections, while the latter is tasked with discovering quiescent black holes over all astrophysical mass ranges and other compact objects via high-energy transients.

The ASO-S is China’s first solar exploration satellite, ending the nation’s history of depending on foreign solar observation data.

Although the missions sound remote from ordinary people, Wu Ji insisted they are of imperative importance for space science and improving lives.

“All these projects were selected according to their scientific significance by judging committees led by scientists in an effort to give a vent for their innovation potential,” Wu said.