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Breaking: China-France Satellite Unlocks Universe's Most Powerful Blasts - 5 Shocking Facts!

ahong

By ahongPublished 22 days ago 4 min read

On June 22nd at 15:00, at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, a Long March 2C carrier rocket soared into the sky, successfully launching the China-France Space Variable Objects Monitor (SVOM) satellite. The satellite entered its predetermined orbit smoothly, marking the successful completion of the launch mission.

The main research object of the China-France astronomical satellite is gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) from deep space. GRBs are the most violent explosions known to date, second only to the Big Bang, involving multiple fields of astrophysics from stars and galaxies to cosmology. They release more energy in a few seconds than the Sun does in its entire lifetime, earning them the title of the most powerful events in the universe. In-depth observation and research of GRBs can help humans solve several major problems in basic science.

Wei Jianyan, the chief scientist of the SVOM satellite on the Chinese side, stated that the SVOM satellite consists of a satellite platform and four payloads. The project adopts a cooperation mode where China takes the lead, with joint development by China and France, and shared analysis of scientific detection data and publication of research results. China provides two payloads: the Gamma Ray Monitor and the Visible Telescope, while France provides two payloads: the Hard X-ray Camera and the Soft X-ray Telescope.

Capturing the astronomical "spectacle" of GRBs is no easy task. GRBs change very quickly and have short durations, placing high demands on both the breadth and precision of space equipment and ground-based telescopes.

"When a GRB occurs, the Hard X-ray Camera, Gamma Ray Monitor, and ground-based wide-field camera array observe the spectral characteristics of the GRB in real-time, providing low-precision positioning while 'casting a wide net'. Based on this positioning, the Soft X-ray Telescope, Optical Telescope, and ground-based follow-up observation telescopes observe the afterglow of the GRB and provide high-precision positioning. Other larger aperture telescopes on the ground then use this high-precision positioning information to conduct more in-depth and detailed observations and research," Wei Jianyan explained.

Wei mentioned that the four payload instruments, through coordinated observation, cover multiple bands from high energy to near-infrared. Combined with a space-ground network capable of real-time downlink, they can achieve unprecedented integrated multi-band joint observation capabilities between space and ground. "For example, when the SVOM satellite detects a GRB signal, it can transmit it to the ground in about one minute. After receiving the signal, the ground station transmits it to various ground observation stations through the ground science center, achieving rapid space-ground interconnected coordinated observation." In addition, the SVOM satellite also has advantages such as autonomous response, high attitude stability, and long lifespan, making it currently the most comprehensive GRB multi-band detection satellite.

As a high-level cooperation between China and France, the SVOM satellite project started its feasibility study in 2005, went through scheme design, initial sample and formal sample development, and took nearly 20 years until the satellite launch in 2024. Over these two decades, China and France deeply integrated their efforts, overcame difficulties together, and promoted the orderly progress of satellite development.

Zhang Yonghe, the project manager of the SVOM satellite on the Chinese side, recalled that engineering teams of over a hundred people from both countries would hold 2 to 3 large meetings each year, and maintain close communication through phone calls, emails, WeChat, and video conferences on a daily basis. "In the early stages, there were some differences between the two sides in culture, working methods, and technical concepts, but we adhered to an attitude of mutual understanding and respect. After years of running-in and communication coordination, the cooperation became more and more tacit and smooth."

In the view of Bertrand Cordier, the chief scientist on the French side, the process of exploring the vast universe with the Chinese side has been a beautiful and unforgettable experience, and both sides have established deep friendships. "Technical personnel from both countries have gone all out for a common goal, giving full play to their respective technical advantages and always remaining optimistic when facing difficulties. In the end, we were not just two cooperating teams, but merged into one team," he said. Cordier added that the scientific research results achieved by the SVOM satellite will be shared with the world, "This project is an example of international cooperation in space exploration."

From the successful launch of the China-France Oceanography Satellite in 2018, to the Chang'e-6 probe carrying the French radon detector, and now to the smooth cooperation of the SVOM satellite project, China and France have achieved fruitful results in space cooperation. "China and France are both major space powers in the world. In the future, the two countries will actively promote cooperation in the development of space science, space technology, and space applications, continuously revealing the mysteries of the universe, enhancing human cognition, and promoting the space industry to broadly benefit both countries and the world," said Liu Yunfeng, Deputy Director of the Department of International Cooperation at the China National Space Administration.

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ahong

I'm Ahong, a writer painting China's stories for the world. Dive into tales that blend tradition with the contemporary, right from the heart of China.

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