China plans to launch an ambitious two-to-one shot at the outer planets with a pair of spacecraft for launch to Jupiter and Uranus around 2030.
The mission will be called Tianwen 4 and will see a larger probe dedicated to Jupiter and a smaller spacecraft fly over the distant planet Uranus.
The pair will launch a Long March 5 rocket and use a Venus flyby and two Earth-bound flights to blast the spacecraft onto the path of the outer solar system before separating and tracing their respective targets.
Related: The latest news about China’s space program
China previously said it was in the planning stages of a Jupiter mission, but new details were presented by Wang Qiong of the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center at the 2022 International Astronautical Conference in Paris in September. .21.
The main spacecraft will be dedicated to investigating the Jupiter system and will eventually enter orbit around Callisto for a detailed investigation of the outer dimensions of the Galilean moons.
The smaller spacecraft, which will have a mass of around a few hundred kilograms according to Wang, will make a longer trip to Uranus. The presentation also notes that the spacecraft could fly close to an asteroid on its way out of the sun.
“The scientific objectives are still being studied,” Wang told Space.com after the presentation. Previous presentations indicated that China was considering focusing on Callisto as a major target that could reveal much about the Moon and the history of the Jovian system, or investigating the irregular satellites of Jupiter which could give insight into the early days of the solar system itself.
The CNSA was earlier considering a lander as part of a Callisto-focused mission profile, but Wang says the latter concept includes an orbiter but no lander.
The mission is part of China’s expanded program to explore the solar system, “Tianwen,” named after the poem “Heavenly Questions” attributed to the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan born about 2,300 years ago.
China launched its first independent interplanetary mission in 2020, sending Tianwen 1 The orbiter and the Zhurong rover to Mars. Next, Tianwen 2 It will launch around 2025 and target a small asteroid close to Earth Kamo’olawewa For a sample return mission and a subsequent visit to the main comet belt.
Tianwen 3 A complex sample return mission from Mars that could begin as early as 2028 and deliver to Earth will be the first samples collected from the Red Planet.
Wang said the missions, along with plans to build International Lunar Research Station In the 2030s, it aims to “promote the use of human resources to create a new pattern of international cooperation in space exploration to make contributions to the peaceful use of space.”
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