China’s Mars mission named Tianwen-1, appears on track for July launch

HELSINKI — China has named its first impartial interplanetary mission Tianwen-1, with the mixed Mars orbiter and rover spacecraft apparently continuing in direction of launch in July.

The identify and mission brand had been unveiled at a China Nationwide House Administration on-line ceremony to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the nation’s first satellite tv for pc. DFH-1 launched on a Lengthy March 1 rocket from Jiuquan April 24, 1970, making China the fifth nation to independently launch a satellite tv for pc.

Tianwen-1, that means ‘inquiries to heaven’, is taken from the identify of a long-form poem by Qu Yuan, a poet born within the fourth century B.C., in response to CNSA chief engineer Ge Xiaochun. 

The ‘Lanxingjiutian’ brand contains representations of the Latin letter ‘c’, referring to China, cooperation, and the cosmic velocity required to undertake planetary exploration. Additional Chinese language planetary missions can even carry the Tianwen identify. 

China is known to be planning a Mars pattern return mission, a Jupiter orbiter and contemplating doable missions to icy giants and interstellar house. A joint near-Earth asteroid pattern return and comet rendezvous mission has additionally been proposed.

Spacecraft delivered, rocket engines examined

Few particulars of the Tianwen-1 mission have been launched to this point. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft is predicted to have a moist mass of round 5 metric tons. Launch on a Lengthy March 5 launcher is predicted from Wenchang early within the quick launch window to Mars open in late July and early August.

The YF-77 liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen engines for the Lengthy March 5 handed checks in January. The identical engines had been the reason for the failure of the second Lengthy March 5 launch in 2017.

Complete software program and {hardware} checks of the spacecraft had been accomplished in March. The spacecraft has apparently been delivered to Wenchang Satellite tv for pc Launch Heart.

The take a look at launch of the Lengthy March 5B—at present anticipated in early Might—will seemingly must succeed for the Tianwen-1 mission to proceed. Following that mission, the Yuanwang-21 and -22 cargo vessels will gather the elements of the Lengthy March 5 for Tianwen-1 from Tianjin, north China, for supply to Wenchang on the southern island of Hainan.

Tianwen-1 orbiter, lander particulars

The Tianwen-1 orbiter will likely be geared up with a high-resolution digital camera akin to HiRise on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It additionally carries a medium-resolution digital camera, subsurface radar, mineralogy spectrometer, impartial and energetic particle analyzers and a magnetometer. The orbiter can even play a relay position for the mission rover.

The roughly 240-kilogram solar-powered rover is sort of twice the mass of China’s Yutu lunar rovers. It should carry a ground-penetrating radar, multispectral digital camera, a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy instrument and payloads for detecting the local weather and magnetic surroundings. The rover has a mission design lifetime of three Earth months. The rover will obtain a reputation by means of a public vote nearer to launch. 

China has outlined two touchdown areas, with a candidate touchdown website in Utopia Planitia. The touchdown ellipse is known to be round 100 x 40 kilometers. Website choice was pushed by a spread of things together with flight system engineering constraints and the challenges of entry, descent and touchdown (EDL) on the Purple Planet, and the science targets of the mission.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft is predicted to achieve Mars round February 2021. Nonetheless, the rover touchdown try could not happen instantly. There are strategies that the touchdown phase of the mission will likely be performed months later, in April. This might permit mapping and statement of the touchdown website, regardless of the provision of high-resolution NASA imagery from HiRise.

The Tianwen-1 mission will be part of NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars orbiter, which this week shipped to its launch website in Japan, in launching through the July-August Mars launch window. ESA’s Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover has been delayed to the subsequent alternative in 2022.

Map indicating two preliminary touchdown areas for China’s 2020 Mars rover offered on the periods of COPUOS in Vienna, Austria in June 2018. Credit score: CNSA

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