China Daily (Hong Kong)

Nation to soon deploy solar observatio­n satellite

- By ZHAO LEI in Zhuhai, Guangdong zhaolei@chinadaily.com.cn

China plans to launch its first solar observatio­n satellite next month, according to a project insider.

Wang Wei, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Satellite Engineerin­g at the Shanghai Academy of Spacefligh­t Technology, and project manager of the satellite, told China Daily on Sunday that the spacecraft is scheduled to be put into orbit from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province around mid-October.

The 550-kilogram satellite, the Chinese H-Alpha Solar Explorer, or CHASE, is designed to maintain a sun-synchronou­s orbit about 520 kilometers above Earth for at least three years, and it will be China’s first space-based solar telescope, he said.

“It was designed and built by engineers at my institute and is tasked with obtaining spectral data and images of the sun as well as verifying our new satellite technologi­es,” Wang said. “Its scientific payload is an H-alpha imaging spectrogra­ph — developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics — that can, for the first time, acquire full-disk spectrosco­pic solar observatio­ns in the H-alpha wave band.”

He added that the craft features high directiona­l accuracy and flying stability.

“Studying the sun helps us to know more about the origin and evolution of celestial magnetic fields, the accelerati­on and distributi­on of energetic particles, and other physical phenomena,” Wang said. “Besides the scientific value, having more knowledge about the sun enables us to avoid solar activities’ disruption of our communicat­ions and navigation service and to better protect spacecraft and astronauts.

“Our country has built a network of ground-based solar observator­ies, but we still lack a space-based observatio­n tool. This mission is expected to give Chinese scientists an orbiting platform to advance their solar research and improve related technologi­es,” Wang said.

Several Chinese satellites, such as the Fengyun 3E meteorolog­ical satellite, have carried equipment that can collect solar data, but CHASE will be the first dedicated to solar observatio­n, he said.

In addition to CHASE, Chinese scientists and spacecraft engineers are working on another solar research satellite: the Advanced Space-Based Solar Observator­y, which will be used for solar physics studies.

That satellite, which is still under developmen­t, aims to explore connection­s among the solar magnetic field, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. It will carry three scientific payloads — a full-disk solar vector magnetogra­ph, a Lyman-alpha solar telescope and a solar hard X-ray imager, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Pang Zhihao, a retired spacecraft researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, said the United States and Europe have launched dozens of spacecraft dedicated to solar observatio­n, such as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and Solar Terrestria­l Relations Observator­y.

He said China’s solar observatio­n satellites will benefit a wide variety of scientific fields and drive the developmen­t of high-tech industries.

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