Science.-China plans to send ships to Jupiter and Uranus with a single rocket


The mission will be called Tianwen 4 and will see a larger probe bound for Jupiter and a smaller spacecraft sent for a flyby of distant Uranus.

Launching on a Long March 5 rocket, the pair will use a Venus flyby and two Earth flybys to place the spacecraft on a trajectory to the outer solar system before separating and heading toward their respective destinations.

China has previously said it is in the planning stages of a mission to Jupiter, but Wang Qiong of the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) Center for Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering presented new details at the 2022 International Astronautical Congress in Paris. .

The main spacecraft will be dedicated to studying the Jovian system, eventually entering orbit around the moon Callisto to study the outermost of the Galilean moons in detail.

The smallest spacecraft, which Wang says will have a mass on the order of a few hundred kilograms, will make the longest journey to Uranus. The presentation also suggests the spacecraft could fly past an asteroid at sunrise.

“The science targets are still under review,” Wang told after the presentation. Previous presentations suggested that China was weighing either focusing on Callisto as a primary target, which could reveal much about the moon and the history of the Jovian system, or studying Jupiter’s irregular satellites, giving a glimpse into the early days of the solar system could exist.

Previously, CNSA considered a lander as part of the Callisto-centric mission profile, but according to Wang, the latest concept includes an orbiter but no lander.

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