space.  A French-Chinese satellite to better understand the history of the universe

space. A French-Chinese satellite to better understand the history of the universe

It is a symbol of space cooperation between France and China. The SVOM satellite lifted off on Saturday aboard a Chinese Long March 2-C rocket from the Xichang Spaceport in southwestern China to study gamma-ray bursts, flashes of light from the far reaches of the universe.

These traces, discovered by American spy satellites in 1967, can help us learn more about its history and the chemical process by which the first stars appeared.

But these flashes are so fleeting — from less than two seconds to a few minutes — that astronomers have difficulty observing them. The most distant explosion yet identified occurred just 630 million years after the Big Bang, or 5% of the current age of the universe.

The SVOM is scheduled to be placed in an orbit at an altitude of 625 km, and will therefore be responsible for identifying these flashes of light. On Earth, a team of scientists will have five minutes at a time to operate a network of telescopes that will line up precisely on the axis of the explosion's source to get more precise observations.

The main tool for the job

As a result of cooperation between CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) and CNSA, the Chinese space agency, the SVOM carries two Chinese and two French measuring instruments, including the ECLAIRs telescope, the main instrument of the mission. With the desire of Jacques Chirac, the Strategic Space Cooperation Agreement was signed between France and China in 1997. It entered an active phase in 2014, with the launch of the SVOM and CFOSAT missions. The CFOSAT oceanographic satellite was placed in orbit in October 2018 and is monitoring winds and waves on the ocean surface to improve marine weather forecasts.

READ  open space in the agglomeration

Although this cooperation is rare, space cooperation between China and the West is not that frequent. Especially since Washington banned NASA from any cooperation with Beijing in space in 2011. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States, points out that “United States concerns about technology transfer have contributed to slowing down cooperation between its allies and the Chinese.”

The first Franco-Chinese cooperation in the field of planetary exploration took place on May 3 with the launch of the Chinese Cheng'e 6 probe, which is in the process of returning to Earth after collecting 2 kg of samples from the dark side of the planet. the moon. She took on board DORN, a French instrument intended for measuring radon gas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *