ESA and China prepare for joint satellite launch

December 4, 2002

Brussels, 03 Dec 2002

Double Star, the joint space programme between China and Europe, has taken a step closer to its 2003 launch with testing of instruments at Imperial College, London.

The mission, known as Double Star, is a joint venture between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Chinese National Space Agency.

More than 30 scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences visited London in November to test whether the 'brain' of the satellite could 'talk' with the European science instruments. 'The visit proved very successful and was a good chance to exchange experience and culture in engineering', Professor Ji Wu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the BBC.

Chris Carr team leader at London's Imperial College, one of the project partners and responsible for building instruments for experiments to explore the effects of the Sun on the Earth's magnetic bubble says 'this is the new China collaborating on the world scene in science, which is something they haven't really done in the past. It's politically significant that the Chinese are doing these collaborations to open up their space industry to the West. They are aiming to be the third nation to put a man in space. They're going to do that pretty quickly, in the next two to three years.'

Double Star will be the first mission that China has launched to explore the magnetic bubble around the Earth, known as the magnetosphere. The two satellites will fly in complementary orbits around the Earth, providing simultaneous data about the changing magnetic field. Each spacecraft will carry nine or 10 scientific instruments, many of which are being built in Europe. They will complement ESA's four Cluster satellites, which are already flying, and should increase the scientific return from both missions.

An agreement was reached to develop Double Star jointly in July 2001 in a move designed to pave the way for future collaborations between the two space agencies. The two satellites are expected to be launched by Chinese Long March 2C rockets in June 2003 and January 2004.

Further information:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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