Beijing – China is getting closer to a finalized design for its next-generation X-ray observatory. As reported by Science this week, scientists at China's National Space Science Center are honing in on the final iteration of their design for the X-Ray Timing and Polarimetry, eXTP, satellite.
The eXTP mission team plans to complete a prototype by 2022, with a goal to launch the satellite in 2025. The project will cost as an estimated $473 million.
At recent meeting in Beijing, Xiangli Bin, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, predicted eXTP would become "China's flagship science satellite."
"As we only have seven years to go it sounds like mission impossible," Xiangli said. "But we will coordinate international efforts and deliver it without delay."
Engineers plan to outfit the X-ray telescope with a variety of instruments designed to study the cosmos' most violent phenomena, including black holes, neutron stars and the collisions of massive galaxies. "This powerful payload is absolutely unique," Andrea Santangelo, an astrophysicist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, told Science.
The satellite's instruments are expected to allow the telescope to measure photons across a wider energy spectrum, as well as detect polarization of X-rays for faraway sources. The satellite massive array will help eXTP record measurements with great precision and at high speeds, enabling the instruments to document spectral changes as distant objects rotate.
NASA is currently designing its own next-generation X-ray observatory called Strobe-X.
"These missions will be critical in the era of time-domain astronomy and will be an essential complement to optical, radio, and multi-messenger studies of the most dynamic and energetic processes in the cosmos," said Paul Ray, an astrophysicist at the US Naval Research Laboratory.