Sino-UK On-Orbit Assembly Telescope Project Kicks off

A kick off meeting for a vital component of the Future-Generation Space Telescope Research Project was held in Changchun, China, on October 24, 2017. The Ultra-Large Aperture On-Orbit Assembly Project (recommended by Chinese Academy of Sciences and supported by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology) is led by two prestigious organizations: the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of Surrey (UoS), UK. Key representatives met to discuss the important issues, with Dr. Laiming Zhang, director of CIOMP’s International Cooperation Division, hosting the meeting and Prof. Yang Gao, Professor of Space Autonomous Systems, Associate Dean (International) of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at UoS, attending the meeting via video link.

 

With the space optics research development, some countries are expected to launch ultra-large-aperture space telescopes in 10m level diameter by 2030, when space optical technology will step into a new milestone. Relevant research shows that the most practical way to develop the next generation of the very large-aperture space telescopes is "manufacturing the components on the ground and assembling the whole machine on-orbit".

 

However, the space telescope on-orbit assembly technology is a completely new field. How to complete the telescope automation, intelligent assembly is faced with a series of technical problems.

 

In order to solve the technical difficulties in constructing the next generation of large-aperture space telescopes, study the formation history of the universe, the evolution and formation of stars and other celestial bodies, and answer the ultimate philosophical questions of common concern to all human beings, the CIOMP of CAS, in cooperation with the UoS, to develop the main key technologies needed for on-orbit assembly of space telescopes and jointly contribute to the promotion of human science and technology development.

 

Idea figure of the Future-Generation Space Telescope (Image by CIOMP) 

 

The Project will develop a 10m level aperture on-orbit assembly space telescope for a range of space science applications, all of which involve complex cooperation in technical planning, conceptual design and review, and demonstrating key technologies and manufacturing proof-of-concept prototypes.

 

The research collaboration will also aim to establish international partnerships towards "On-orbit Assembly International Science Organization” (OAISO), to help promote and develop future international space missions for the underpinning technologies.

 

This research collaboration has emerged from active exchanges between the two organizations, including in September 2016, CIOMP delegates led by President Ping Jia visited UoS in the United Kingdom. Prof. Vince Emery, the Senior Vice President of UoS and Prof. Yang Gao discussed the collaboration, especially regarding intelligent space manufacturing technology. In December 2016, Prof. Emery was invited to CIOMP in Changchun for further discussions, and he presented a constructive plan for cooperation. An MOU was signed by the President and Vice Chancellor of UoS, Professor G Q Max Lu, and CIOMP President Ping Jia. Both parties agreed to explore a range of collaborative endeavors, including the initiation and launch of a joint laboratory.

 

In a broader context, in 2015, Chinese President Jinping Xi paid a state visit to the United Kingdom, and ensured that scientific sessions were on the agenda when discussing cooperative activities with the UK Prime Minister. In September 2017, Dr.WAN Gang, Minister in the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, addressed the opening ceremony of the Sino-UK Innovation Forum. He called on China and the UK to have further and deeper collaboration in science and technology, with a resulting move from a “Golden Age” to a “Platinum Age”. The start of the CIOMP/UoS joint project will attend to this call and will enhance the China/UK cooperation in astronomy and space technology. It is surely set to become a shining star.

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