A new optical space telescope China is developing to survey the sky will work in concert with the country’s planned space station enabling it to be refuelled, repaired and upgraded.
The Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST) is slated to be launched into low Earth orbit in 2024. Featuring a 2-meter diameter lens, the telescope is designed to carry out large sky surveys.
Once launched, the CSST will enter a co-orbit with China’s space station, the first module of which will be launched later this month. This will enable the telescope to periodically dock with the station for refuelling, scheduled maintenance and upgrades.
To support its new space telescope, China’s Manned Space Engineering Office plans to build four CSST science centres around the country. The four science centres are slated to be built in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Peking University, the National Astronomical Observatories, and the Yangtze River Delta region.
According to the Chinese state media outlet Xinhua, the CSST science centres will bring together scientists from around the country to study galactic cosmology, stars and planets, compact stars and sources of gravitational waves, and experimental space technologies.
“With it, we can carry out the survey of large areas in space in the coming 10 years,” said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program. “We will explore the mysteries of the stars and very deep space, including the origin and evolution of the cosmos, as well as the important scientific frontier issues including dark holes, dark matter and dark energy.”
Although the telescope’s primary mission is expected to last 10 years, with its ability to be refuelled, repaired and upgraded, the telescope could serve for far longer.