Double Star factsheet

Studying the effects of the Sun on the Earth's environment

Name As its name suggests, Double Star involves two satellites.

Description Double Star follows in the footsteps of ESA's ground-breaking Cluster mission by studying the effects of the Sun on Earth’s environment. It is exploring Earth's magnetosphere — the magnetic 'bubble' that surrounds our planet.

Launch 29 December 2003, 20:06 CET, and 25 July 2004 (at Xichang and Taiyuan, China).

Status In operation.

Journey One of the Double Star spacecraft is flying in a polar orbit and the other is close to Earth's equator. It will be possible to synchronise these orbits with those of ESA's four Cluster satellites so that all six spacecraft are studying the same region of near-Earth space at the same time.

Notes Double Star is the first mission launched by China to explore Earth's magnetosphere. Half of the experiments on board are European.

Using Double Star alongside Cluster, scientists can investigate the Sun's 'magnetotail'. This is a region where storms of high-energy particles are generated. When these particles reach Earth, they can cause power cuts, damage satellites, and disrupt communications.

Seven instruments on Double Star are identical to those currently flying on the four Cluster spacecraft. Conducting joint studies with similar instruments on Cluster and Double Star should increase the overall scientific return from both missions. One additional European instrument is an imager is monitoring energetic neutral atoms in the Earth's magnetosphere.

Bringing together the Chinese hardware and the European instruments, Imperial College (University of London), United Kingdom, used a computer to simulate space conditions outside the satellite and performed data and power system tests to check whether the equipment will function happily together.

China and ESA have a long history of scientific collaboration. The first cooperation agreement between ESA and the National Commission for Science and Technology of the Peoples Republic of China entered into force on 11 July 1980. Its purpose was to facilitate the exchange of scientific information.

Last update: 6 June 2013

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