China to target near-Earth object 2020 PN1 for asteroid deflection mission

HELSINKI — China has set its sights on near-Earth object 202 PN1 because the goal for a mixed asteroid deflection and remark check mission attributable to launch in 2026.

The brand new particulars of the near-Earth asteroid protection system demonstration and verification check mission have been offered by Lengthy Lehao, chief designer of China’s Lengthy March rocket collection, in a latest “Science and Innovation China” collection lecture (video in Chinese language).

A slide offered by Lengthy signifies that the impactor mission will launch in 2026 on a Lengthy March 3B rocket. The mission will embrace a separate impactor and orbiter. The previous will impression near-Earth object 2020 PN1 with the latter spacecraft making observations.

If appropriate, the mission seems to mix components of the separate NASA DART mission, attributable to collide with Dimorphos, a moon orbiting the close to Earth asteroid Didymos, in September, and the European Area Company’s Hera mission, which can observe Didymos and Dimorphos later this decade to find out the consequences of the DART collision.

New particulars on China’s asteroid deflection mission: launch in 2026 on Lengthy March 3B rocket, concentrating on Earth-crossing, near-Earth asteroid 2020 PN1 (~40m diameter). It should mix an orbiter and impactor, in accordance with a slide from a lecture by Lengthy March designer Lengthy Lehao.

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) July 12, 2022

Mixed, the DART and Hera missions are often known as the Asteroid Affect and Deflection Evaluation (AIDA) collaboration.

The goal for China’s check, 2020 PN1, is an Earth-crossing asteroid and a short lived co-orbital companion to the Earth. It was found in 2020 and estimates of its measurement put it at round 40 meters in diameter.

The Lengthy March 3B launcher is a workhorse for missions to geostationary orbit however has additionally launched lunar robotic lander missions.

China earlier introduced plans in April to try to change the orbit of a doubtlessly threatening asteroid with a kinetic impactor check as a part of plans for a complete planetary protection system.

Lengthy’s lecture nevertheless supplies the primary particulars relating to the mission goal and profile, which differentiate it from earlier proposals. 

Chinese language researchers had beforehand revealed papers on ideas for kinetic impactors, specifically the “Assembled Kinetic Impactor” (AKI) utilizing a Lengthy March 5, and the extra advanced “Enhanced Asteroid Deflector,” which might first gather rocks from a near-Earth asteroid earlier than impacting a doubtlessly hazardous asteroid. 

The China Nationwide Area Administration (CNSA) additionally acknowledged in April that it’ll set up an early warning system and develop software program to simulate operations in opposition to the close to Earth objects and check and confirm fundamental procedures.

Lengthy’s lecture additionally touched on exploration missions, together with Tianwen-2, a near-Earth asteroid sample-return mission, the Tianwen-3 Mars sample-return, and a Jupiter system mission. 

It additionally reiterated plans for a two-launch mission to place a pair of Chinese language astronauts on the moon by 2030, a brand new methane-liquid oxygen heavy-lift rocket and reusable launchers, and future propulsion ideas together with nuclear propulsion and a spaceplane.

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