China is planning a kinetic asteroid defense mission no earlier than 2025 as part of a larger set of planetary shielding planning initiatives, according to a news report.
The China National Space Administration’s spacecraft will slam into a so-far unidentified potentially hazardous asteroid and attempt to alter its orbit, according to a SpaceNews report. (“Potentially hazardous” describes a set of space rock characteristics associated with a higher probability of eventual impact, although space agencies have found no imminent threats.)
China is also working on a planetary defense plan, including technical studies and research concerning systems that humans could use to deflect near-Earth asteroids, Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), told state news provider China Central Television (CCTV).
The new announcement comes on the heels of a “white paper” released in January, SpaceNews added. China’s goals in that paper, the report said, include “plans for building a near-earth object defense system, and [to] increase the capacity of near-Earth object monitoring, cataloging, early warning, and response over the 2021-2025 period.”
China operates mostly independently of the international space community and has come under fire from the Biden administration in recent years for actions such as allowing the uncontrolled fall of a 23-ton core stage of a Long March 5B booster in 2021. Further, NASA “may not engage in any bilateral activities with China or Chinese-owned companies,” according to NASA.
But China has been active in planetary defense lately, including holding its first Planetary Defense Conference in October 2021, “with sessions, papers and presentations on a range of related issues,” SpaceNews stated.
China’s efforts at such an asteroid mission are by no means the first. In November 2021, NASA launched its asteroid-smacking Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). DART aims to slam into a small asteroid named Dimorphos, changing the space rock’s orbit around its larger companion, Didymos.
The European Space Agency plans a follow-up mission later in the decade, called Hera, to Didymos and Dimorphos to look at how DART altered the moonlet’s orbit.