China launches second Double Star satellite
EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: July 25, 2004
At 07:05 UT (15:05 local time) today, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) successfully launched TC-2, the second of two scientific satellites known as Double Star. This marks the next important milestone in this joint scientific collaboration between China and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Double Star will operate alongside ESA's Cluster mission and will study closely the interaction between the solar wind and Earth's magnetic field. Together with Cluster, Double Star will provide the most detailed view of Earth's magnetosphere ever obtained. Tan Ce 1 is already returning a wealth of scientific data. In January 2004 it tracked together with Cluster a coronal mass ejection from the Sun and gathered interesting data about the Earth bow shock.
The positions and orbit of the two Double Star satellites have been carefully defined to allow the study of the magnetosphere on a larger scale than that possible with Cluster alone. An example of this co-ordinated activity is the study of the substorms producing the bright aurorae. The exact region where they form is still unclear but the simultaneous high-resolution measurements to be made by Double Star and Cluster are expected to give an answer.
ESA's contribution to the mission includes eight scientific instruments, of which seven are copies from ESA's Cluster mission. They are the first ever European instruments to be flown on a Chinese spacecraft. ESA will also provide support to the ground segment for four hours each day via ESA's satellite tracking station in Villafranca, Spain.
The history of scientific collaboration between the People's Republic of China and ESA goes back a long way. The first co-operation agreement was signed in 1980, to facilitate the exchange of scientific information. Thirteen years later, the collaboration focused on a specific mission, ESA's Cluster, to study Earth's magnetosphere.
Then, in 1997, came a big step. The CNSA invited ESA to participate in Double Star, a two-satellite mission to study Earth's magnetic field, but from a perspective which is different from that of Cluster and complementary to it. An agreement to develop this joint mission was signed on 9 July 2001 by ESA's Director General, Antonio Rodota, and Luan Enjie, Administrator of the CNSA.
Professor David Southwood, the Director of ESA's Scientific Programme, said: "Today's successful launch sees the culmination of these joint efforts and marks another important step in this historic collaboration between China and Europe."
About 8 hours after launch the two solid booms holding the magnetometers were successfully deployed. In the next few weeks the spacecraft sub-systems will be checked out followed by the instruments commissioning.