Chinese asteroid deflection mission starts in 2026

The Chinese mission to change the orbit of a near-Earth asteroid will be launched in 2026. This is stated in the presentation published by Lun Lehao, the chief designer of the Changzheng series of missiles. 

Purpose of the Chinese mission

In April of this year, officials of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) first reported on the development of a project for a new interplanetary mission. Its goal will be to change the orbit of a potentially dangerous asteroid using direct kinetic action.

Asteroids flying past the Earth. Illustration: ESA

During a recent lecture, Lun Lehao presented a slide dedicated to this project. It follows from it that the mission to change the asteroid’s orbit will be launched in 2026 on the Changzheng-3B rocket. Its target will be 2020 PN1, a potentially dangerous near-Earth object of the Apollo family. Its diameter is about 40 meters. Another interesting detail of the project is that two vehicles will go to the asteroid at once — an impactor, as well as a descent module, which will have to make a soft landing on the asteroid, investigate it and assess the consequences of the impact. 

Chinese “response” to DART and Hera

The Chinese asteroid deflection mission is part of the all-planetary defense program being developed by the Celestial Empire. Within its framework, Chinese scientists are conducting research and studying various ways to counter potentially dangerous celestial bodies. CNSA is also creating an early warning system for dangerous approaches and is developing software that allows simulating the consequences of operations against small bodies of the Solar System.

As it is easy to see, the Chinese project actually combines elements of two separate NASA and ESA missions. We are talking about the already launched DART probe and the Hera spacecraft, which will go into space in a few years. In September of this year, DART will crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, which is a moon of the larger object Didymos. The collision of DART with an asteroid and its consequences will be monitored by radars and a network of ground-based observatories, as well as the Italian cubesat LICIACube.

The scheme of the DART mission. Source: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

Hera will visit Didymos and Dimorphos in 2026. The European probe will carefully measure the crater left after the DART impact, as well as conduct a comprehensive study of both asteroids. These data will help astronomers better understand the properties and behavior of such binary systems.

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