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Countdown to China's 'Double Satellites Program'
China’s first space exploration program -- the “Geospace Double Satellites Exploration Program” (GDSEP) has entered its final phase. According to Liu Zhenxing, chief scientist on the program and academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) key breakthroughs concerning the program have been made and China’s first GDSEP satellite will be launched December, the second one expected to be launched six months later.

Geospace refers to the flight area of various satellites, space shuttles and space station.

The two satellites will operate in polar and equatorial areas where international geospace exploration satellites haven’t covered yet. Together with four satellites of the "Satellite Cluster II Mission" -- the most important exploration program of the European Space Agency -- they will realize a three-dimensional six-point probe over geospace for the first time in human history.

Since the first man-made satellite successfully launched in October 1957, nations have not stopped their exploration on geospace. Scientists have called it the "fourth field" which is closely associated with human activities besides on land, sea and in the atmosphere.

The International Solar-Terrestrial Physics Program (ISTP) put forward in the 1990s has emphasized unprecedented international cooperation in this area and conducts multi-satellites cooperative exploration by treating sun-earth system as one.

International space circles believe that the satellites of the ISTP Program have some limitations in space distribution and that they are unable to conduct effective exploration in equatorial and polar areas.

In light of these limitations and also because of the improvement of the nation’s technology, a group of Chinese space scientists, led by Liu Zhenxing, put forward the GDSEP at the beginning of 1997. It was formally approved by the State Council in April 2002.

A few months after the GDSEP was put forward, a group of ten experts, led by the director of science of the European Space Agency came to visit the Space Science and Application Research Center under the CAS, where Liu Zhenxing works, to consider if the GDSEP was of significance in the improvement of their "Satellite Cluster Mission."

Liu Zhenxing is full of confidence when talking about the GDSEP and says that the program has attracted a wide response from the international space community.

Through cooperation with the European Space Agency, a large amount of data on space exploration can improve China’s innovative research of space physics. It will also promote China’s status and influence in the international space community and help foster new scientific professionals of all levels.

According to Liu, the researchers taking part in the GDSEP are all youth 45 years old or under.

(China.org.cn by Wang Qian, April 1, 2003)

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