China Launches New Astronomical Satellite in Cooperation with France

On June 22, 2024, China launched a Chang Zheng (Long March) 2C-class rocket carrying an astronomical satellite, the Space-based Multi-band Variable Object Monitor (SVOM).

The launch took place from the Xichang Cosmodrome in Sichuan Province, and the astronomical satellite, which will enter orbit at an altitude of 600 kilometers above Earth, is the result of nearly 20 years of work and cooperation between Chinese and French scientists.

The goal is to record gamma-ray bursts.

“We are waiting for important discoveries, such as the first gamma-ray bursts that occurred when the universe was still in its infancy, which will help us study cosmic evolution,” Wei Jianyan, SVOM head researcher at the China National Space Administration (CNSA), told Xinhua in China.

“Observing gamma-ray bursts is a bit like time travel because their light takes a long time to reach us on Earth, and for those farther away, several billion years. Traveling through space, this light also passes through different gases and galaxies, collecting their digital fingerprints,” Frederic Daigne, an astrophysicist at the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris, commented to the French Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The minimum life cycle of a satellite should be five years, but according to the Chinese Space Agency, it could even reach 20 years.