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China Space News Update #10: Youngest Moon samples, Shenzhou-13 rollout, exploration updates

Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones
Updates, context and reports on China’s expanding space activities, with the latest civil, commercial, policy and exploration news.
Here’s the roundup for 4-10 October, 2021. Thanks for reading!

This week: Youngest Moon samples, Shenzhou-13 rollout, exploration updates
A panoramic image taken by Chang'e-5 in Oceanus Procellarum in December 2020. Credit: CNSA/CLEP
A panoramic image taken by Chang'e-5 in Oceanus Procellarum in December 2020. Credit: CNSA/CLEP
A quiet seven days, due to it being the National Day golden week holiday in China. There were still major developments despite this.
Chang'e-5 samples aged at ~2 billion years, confirming youthful volcanism
  • A paper published in the journal Science by a diverse international team puts the age of fragments of samples collected by Chang'e-5 at 1,963 million years (Paper: )
  • This confirms that volcanism occurred later in the sampled area of the Moon’s Oceanus Procellarum than in other areas.
  • But the main hypothesis for the cause of this relatively youthful magmatism did not hold up.
  • An expected high concentration of radioactive, heat-producing elements was not found within the analysed two fragments, meaning scientists have to revise models for the thermal evolution Moon.
  • The results will also help constrain estimates for the ages of planetary surfaces across the solar system through crater counting.
  • Expect more science from Chang'e-5: The research comes from one of 31 approved applications from 13 institutions that sought for pieces from the first batch of released Chang’e 5 samples. A review session for a second round of applications was set for October 8.
  • More: Sky & Telescope, Nature, The Conversation; original paper: Science)
Shenzhou-13: Six-month crewed mission ready for launch
A Long March 2F was rolled out to the pad at Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert early on October 7 in preparation for launching the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft to the orbiting Tianhe space station module. Neither the crew nor the timing of the mission have been officially announced, but it is expected to be backup crew for the recently completed Shenzhou-12 mission, Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. Views from rollout (CMSA (Chinese)). More:
China rolls out rocket for its longest crew mission yet | Space
Exploration news
Inaugural Chinese Planetary Science Conference - roundup of the first conference of what is hoped to become one of the world’s premier planetary science conferences which was held 18–21 June 2021 in Suzhou. (Nature)
  • The current community of China’s planetary scientists is very youthful. Women scientists make up nearly a quarter of the total attendees.
Highlighted upcoming missions:
  • China will launch an optical telescope with a 2-metre aperture, China Space Station Telescope around 2024
  • China planning to launch spacecraft to the outer edges of the solar system around 2024
  • China’s future lunar missions will gradually shift to a study of the Moon’s interior, establish ILRS Moon base
Tianwen-1 conjunction solar downtime update (CLEP)
  • Tianwen-1 and Zhurong will be in safe mode for a shorter period than the initially stated 50 days, likely due conservative estimates as China experiences its first solar conjunction during an interplanetary mission.
  • Separately, Tianwen-1 probe chief designer Sun Zezhou stated that Zhurong has covered 1,182 metres so far. (Sohu)
Copernican-aged (<200 Ma) Impact Ejecta at the Chang’e-5 Landing Site: Statistical Evidence from Crater Morphology, Morphometry and Degradation Models. (Geophysical Research Letters)
1,000 days on the moon! China’s Chang’e 4 lunar far side mission hits big milestone | Space
Articles and updates
Pushing the boundaries of microsatellite technology - a look at Chinese progress in small satellites and the work at the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (Shine)
Putin slashes Russia’s space budget and says he expects better results - Tangential, but falling Roscosmos budgets and revenues will have an impact on Russia’s ability to contribute to the ILRS, something that will not go unnoticed in Beijing. (Ars Technica)
China Satellite Network Group Co. Ltd., the state-owned company established in April and charged with overseeing the development of China’s “Guowang” satellite internet constellation, has established a fourth subsidiary. (泰伯网综合 (Chinese)).
- There are currently few details known about the Guowang project, though it will supersede earlier plans from SOEs CASC and CASIC for their own respective Hongyan and Hongyun broadband constellations. ITU filings for a new Chinese constellation were noted by Larry Press in October last year.
Chinese partnership to create Tianxian SAR satellite constellation - SpaceNews
Interview with senior lunar mission figure Ye Peijian (People’s Daily (Chinese))
The second stage of Long March 7 (Y4) which launched Tianzhou-3 reenters the atmosphere over Xinjiang. (CMSA (Chinese))
China’s Space Success Boon To Scientific Progress Of Humanity - article illustrates how space activities have been used in Chinese engagement with African nations. (Capital News)
Chinese space station’s public interaction inspires imagination - notes the popularity of and reaction to recent major space achievements (Xinhua)
Russia and China – a new space axis - Brian Harvey on historic and recent developments in Sino-Russian space cooperation. (Room (paywall)
Subsidies to be available to help promote the development of Wuhan’s aerospace industry, to support rocket assembly and integration, satellite and space vehicle manufacturing, and space data applications. Wuhan authorities are aiming for the cluster to be on the scale of 100 billion yuan by 2025 and anchor it as the “third pole” of China’s space industry. (泰伯网)
Chinese company aims for suborbital space tourism with familiar rocket design | Space
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Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones @AJ_FI

A weekly roundup of developments in the nebulous but energetic Chinese space sector. Created by freelance space reporter and correspondent Andrew Jones.

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