As part of a growing program of space science research, Shijian-10 is China's first microgravity experimental satellite and will spend 15 days in space before returning to Earth with results for analysis.
The National Space Science Centre (NSSC) in Beijing under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) states the satellite will carry out 19 experiments in a range of fields during its brief time in orbit.
These include microgravity fluid physics, microgravity combustion, space material science, space radiation, the effects of microgravity on biological processes, and space biotechnology.
The project has been jointly developed by 11 institutes of CAS, together with six Chinese universities, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The Soret Coefficient in Crude Oil (SCCO) experiment, created through collaboration between ESA, the NSSC, France’s Total oil company and PetroChina of China, aims investigate the behaviour of oil under high pressure to increase understanding of crude oil reservoirs kilometres underground.
The on-board experiments were selected from 200 applications.
According to an NSSC paper (pdf), the life science experiments include investigation into the development of mouse early embryos in space, and roles of space radiation on genomic DNA and its genetic effects.
Physical experiments include investigation of the coal combustion and pollutant formation under microgravity, crystal growth in space, ignition and burning of solid materials in microgravity, and the above crude oil experiment.
People’s Daily writes that scientists all over the world are working on facilities to create microgravity conditions, such as parabolic aircraft, sounding rockets and other experimental platforms, but longer studies require a satellite like Shijian-10.
Launch and return
Shijian-10 will launch on a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan centre and return to Earth two weeks later.
Due to the design and retrievable nature of Shijian-10, the launch will not need to include a protective payload fairing. The short mission time means the satellite is equipped with chemical batteries instead of solar panels.
According to Go-Taikonauts!, which produces periodic reports on the Chinese space program, Shijian-10 will land at Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia, the designated landing spot for China’s Shenzhou human spaceflight missions and a 2014 lunar sample return test mission.
All of China’s previous 24 recoverable satellites have been successfully recovered in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
Space science ambitions
Shijian-10 comes after the launch of China’s first dark matter probe, Wukong ( or 'DAMPE'), in December and will be followed later in 2016 by the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) and the QUantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) - the world’s first space mission focussing on quantum entanglement.
This batch of Chinese missions will be followed in coming years by projects outlined in a long-term vision for space science research, which has been created by the NSSC after consultations with the Chinese space community.
Future missions entering the engineering phase this year include a space-weather observatory mission (SMILE) in collaboration with ESA, a global water cycle observation mission (WCOM), and the Einstein Probe (EP), which will survey large portions of the universe for various phenomena, including the electromagnetic wave counterparts of gravitational wave events.