China and the UK begin on-orbit telescope assembly project

Image courtesy of CIOMP

On 24 October 2017, China and the UK launched the The Ultra-Large Aperture On-Orbit Assembly Project, which will work towards on-orbit assembly of a jointly-developed space telescope.

Led by the China’s Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP) and the UK’s University of Surrey (UoS), the project will develop a 10m level aperture space telescope for a range of scientific applications. The two institutions will also design the key technologies needed for on-orbit assembly, including robotics and telescope automation.

The project is the outcome of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by between CIOMP and UoS in September 2016, and will be the first collaboration between the two. The partnership also aims to found an “On-orbit Assembly International Science Organization” (OAISO), to help promote and develop future international space missions and the technologies required.

Shortly after the launch of project, UoS announced the setting up of a Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE) Hub funded by “a £6.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA), as well as £22.3 million from over twenty space organisations”, but did not name the organisations.

At the same time, China has also announced the development of a new space telescope to study high energy light emitted by gravitational waves, planned for launch in 2020.

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