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China unveils plans for five new space missions

December 12, 2016

The Chinese Academy of Sciences' National Space Science Center (NSSC) has unveiled five space science projects as part of the country's 13th Five Year Plan period (2016-20).

The missions include an Einstein Probe satellite that will carry two X-ray telescopes of differing sensitivities to search for black holes, gravitational waves, gamma-ray bursts and other phenomena.

Another mission is known as the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere Coupling Small Satellite Constellation Exploration Plan. Four small satellites will be deployed in different orbits to traverse the polar regions at the same time but at different altitudes, in order to study the outflow of ions from the ionosphere to the magnetosphere.

Meanwhile, a Water Cycle Observation Mission aims to improve scientists' understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of the water cycle and related physical processes, as well as how the water cycle responds to global changes.

An Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory will study the relationships between solar magnetic fields, solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

The fifth project will be carried out by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in partnership with the European Space Agency. The Solar Wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer will study the interaction between Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind, while simultaneously monitoring the magnetosphere's plasma environment.

The NSSC has also begun soliciting future research ideas from space science-related institutes across China.

The ideas with the best prospects will receive grants from the center for up to six months of in-depth study to draw up detailed research plans. Some of these could then be chosen as candidates for the 14th Five Year Plan (2021-25) or 15th Five Year Plan (2026-30) on space exploration.

Researchers have until the end of December to make a submission.

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