China Fuyan [facetted eye], a new active high-resolution deep space observation facility in the country’s southwest municipality of Chongqing. Photo: Courtesy of BIT Chongqing Innovation Center
In a move to play an increasing role in global efforts to protect the planet, China recently began building a new high-resolution active deep space observation facility in the country’s southwest municipality of Chongqing, with goals including strengthening its defense capacity against near-Earth asteroids. As well as the ability to sense the Earth-Moon system.
The new monitoring facility, codenamed China Fuyan [facetted eye], it will consist of distributed radars with more than 20 antennas, and the diameter of each antenna will be from 25 to 30 meters. Working together, they are expected to conduct high-resolution monitoring of asteroids 150 million kilometers away, the Global Times learned from the project leader, Beijing Institute of Technology.
The Innovation Center of the Beijing Institute of Technology in Chongqing, the Chinese National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tsinghua University and Peking University will also join the process of building Fuyan, which will become the world’s most long-range radar system.
Since the system includes multiple antennas, just like the faceted eyes of an insect, Long Teng, president of the Beijing Institute of Technology, who is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in a statement provided by the university to the Global Times. , give it a living name, China Fuyan.
Long said the construction will fill an empty space and meet state requirements including near-Earth defense and space sensing capability, as well as frontier studies on Earth’s habitability and asteroid formation.
The Fuyan program comes after China announced in April of plans to build a near-Earth asteroid monitoring and defense system to deal with the threat of asteroids hitting spacecraft, and contribute to protecting the safety of Earth and humankind.
A terrestrial and space-based asteroid monitoring and warning system will be established to catalog and analyze asteroids that potentially pose a threat to human space activities. Technology and engineering will be developed to dispel these threats.
The Global Times from the Beijing Institute of Technology has learned that the new radar facility in Chongqing will also support the country’s missions in exploring the region between Earth and the Moon, including the search for a suitable landing target for the Tianwen-2 probe mission.
Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of the Tianwen-1 Mars probe mission, revealed to the media in May that Tianwen-2 has entered the research and development stage of a prototype, and is expected to be launched by 2025.
The Tianwen-2 mission will take a decade, during which the probe will make observations as well as return samples of the near-Earth asteroid 2016HO3. According to Space.com, the target asteroid is also called Kamo’oalewa, which may actually be an exploding piece of Earth’s moon.
According to Long, the program will run in three phases. Four pieces of radar with a diameter of 16 meters will be created to check the feasibility of such a system and achieve a three-dimensional image of the moon.
Currently, out of the four radars have been built in Chongqing, and are expected to be operational by September this year.
The second stage will be to increase the number of antennas to more than 20 and to form a high-precision distributed radar system equivalent to one with a diameter of 100 meters, which will enable the country to explore and photograph an asteroid tens of millions of kilometers away and verify related technology. .
The third stage will eventually achieve the 150 million km observing capability and become the world’s first deep space radar with the capacity to perform 3D imaging and dynamic observation as well as active observation of celestial bodies throughout the inner solar system.
The Chongqing Innovation Center of the Beijing Institute of Technology told the Global Times on Sunday that the timeline and size of the third phase have yet to be determined, as these decisions will be made based on the results and studies conducted during the previous phases.
Different from the working principle of the 500-meter aperture spherical radio telescope (FAST) designed to collect passive observations of radio signals from space, the new Fuyan will actively release radio signals, space experts contacted by the Global Times said on Sunday. for celestial bodies in order to obtain new observations.
“This deep space radar system will almost certainly cover the full range in the Earth-Moon system, where the moon is only about 400,000 km away. This means that the system will be able to monitor the flight of a spacecraft and spacecraft to the moon, which would have it,” Wang Yan’an said. , editor-in-chief of Beijing-based magazine Aerospace Knowledge, told the Global Times on Sunday that it would be a huge help for China’s lunar exploration.
The system’s 150-million-kilometre high-resolution active monitoring capability will be of great value for us to learn about the details of near-Earth asteroids and the more we know about them in terms of size, shape and flight information, the better we defend or interfere with their impact, Wang noted.
As Chinese space technology has made several noteworthy advances, including the successful deep-space exploration of the Moon and Mars and also in the manned space program sector, China is playing an increasingly important role in global efforts to defend against near-Earth asteroids, observers noted.
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