Brussels, 06 Jan 2004
The Chinese national space administration (CNSA) has successfully launched the first of two scientific satellites known as Double Star, which include the first ever European instruments to be carried onboard a Chinese spacecraft.
The satellite, called Tan Ce 1 (or Explorer 1), lifted off from its launch base in Xichang on 29 December. The Double Star mission aims to study the interaction between the Solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field, and follows directly in the footsteps of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Cluster mission.
China was a collaborator during the 1993 Cluster mission, and in 1997 invited ESA to participate in Double Star. ESA has provided eight on board scientific instruments for the mission, which will work in synergy with those mounted on the four Cluster spacecraft.
'Double Star is a win-win project,' said Professor David Southwood, director of ESA's scientific programme. 'Not only will European scientists participate in a new mission, at a very low cost, but they will also see an increased scientific return from the four ESA Cluster satellites. [...] These are the great advantages of an historic international collaboration.'
According to ESA, the positions of the two Double Star satellites have been selected in order to allow the study of the magnetosphere on a larger scale than is possible with Cluster alone. One phenomenon that scientists hope to discover more about is the substorms that cause bright aurorae.
The exact regions where substorms form is still unknown, but it is hoped that the high resolution measurements to be made by Double Star and Cluster together will provide the answer.
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