China’s replacement for NASA’s $ 10B James Webb telescope helps Beijing compete with US in deep space exploration

The space race between the United States (US) and China is set for a new and exciting turn.

Scientists in China are developing small satellites to carry out sophisticated astronomical research that was only possible with huge and expensive space telescopes.

To monitor high-energy and short-term violent events in deep space, the Chinese mission has imagined more than 100 microsatellites, each fitted with a smaller and lighter version of a standard X-ray telescope.

This technique is in stark contrast to the current trend of large telescopes that can see space and time in depth.

The US $ 10 billion James Webb telescope, launched in December to search for the first light in the universe after the Big Bang, was developed more than two decades ago and will cost ten times more than initially planned.

James Webb Space Telescope

In fact, in a new series of experiments, NASA sees a new system using liquid technology that allows the construction of telescopes ten times larger than the James Webb Space Telescope.

Astronomers around the world believe that large telescopes can collect more light, allowing astronomers to see smaller, darker, and farther objects more clearly.

However, China’s departure from that approach could be a turning point in its space program. The CATCH (Chasing All Transients Constellation Hunters) team plans to launch a Pathfinder satellite next year, followed by a test orbit of ten orbiting satellites.

CATCH is a collection of hundreds of satellites. Each satellite will be equipped with a lightweight X-ray telescope made separately by China. One or more interfaces can be tracked by a single satellite, and hundreds of satellites can simultaneously monitor a large number of interpolations.

Also, a broad vision or high-precision galaxy of satellites can be created to pursue the cooperation of certain essential targets (such as gravitational waves).

China’s novel astronomical experiment

Tao Lian, who is in charge of essential technical research and development for the C project, said the team plans to deploy the entire galaxy by 2030 if the first steps are successful.

According to Tao of the High Energy Physics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, the expected budget for each satellite is $ 1.6 million, half of which goes towards missile costs. He predicts that costs will be significantly reduced in a few years through cheaper satellite and launch services provided by private companies, the SCMP noted.

According to Yin Qianqing, another member of the CATCH team, the biggest problem is the integration of the satellites as they operate separately and together.

Earthsky |  Orion the Hunter, the most recognizable star in the world
Earthsky | Orion the Hunter, the most recognizable star in the world

He went on to say that every “smart” microsatellite would automatically start detection and surveillance while in orbit, effectively identify targets and link its findings to an astronomical event database.

Together with North Night Vision Technology, we have teamed up with North Night Vision Technology, a global optical products provider in Kunming, southwest of Yunnan, to produce small glasses that fit the body of a lobster eye for micro satellites in unprecedented development.

The intricate construction of glass is designed to collect light from various angles in search of events ranging from supernova explosions to black hole formation, which can be detected in the X-ray sky by the incredible hot gases they generate at temperatures above one million degrees. Celsius.

Big way or small way?

Most observations depend on the collection of light particles and if it is a large mirror it will collect more light.

However, this is a very expensive method because it takes many years to build the primary glass, and less than three months to assemble it into space, not to mention the outstanding costs of the entire process from upgrade to assembly.

Space-China
File image: Chinese space station

Nevertheless, this is the main reason why small satellites are often pushed for Earth observation and educational purposes, although successful deep space discoveries have already been made using these small and significantly less expensive devices.

According to astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astronomical Center, the Canadian-European BRITE mission uses a network of five nanosatellites to monitor luminosity fluctuations in the most intelligent stars. “It’s true that the size of the telescope is important, but there are areas where small satellites can help the ESA in astronomy,” he said.

A team led by Tsinghua University in Beijing announced last November the discovery of a 10cm (3.9 inch) CubeSat, the most intense eruption in the universe – a gamma-ray burst. Large gamma-ray telescopes, including NASA’s $ 700 million flagship Fermi gamma-ray space telescope, have been confirmed for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

If China makes progress on its set of micro-satellites, it could become the epitome of cheap Chinese technological development and effectively facilitate global deep space exploration efforts.

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