ZhengHe (spacecraft)

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Mission typeAsteroid sample return
Comet orbiter/lander
Mission duration10 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Start of mission
Launch date2024
RocketLong March 3B[1]
2016 HO3 orbiter
Sample mass0.2–1.0 kg (0.4–2.2 lb)
133P/Elst–Pizarro orbiter
Orbital insertion2032[2]

ZhengHe is a proposed asteroid sample-return and comet exploration mission by China.


Planned for launch around 2024, ZhengHe will use solar electric propulsion to explore the near-Earth asteroid 2016 HO3 and the main-belt comet 133P/Elst–Pizarro.[3][4] The spacecraft will rendezvous with 2016 HO3 and conduct remote sensing observations in orbit, before landing on the asteroid to collect a sample of up to 1 kg (2.2 lb) of regolith.[1] ZhengHe will then return to Earth to drop off a return capsule containing the sample, and conduct a gravity assist maneuver to propel the spacecraft toward Mars, where a second gravity assist will be performed to direct it to 133P/Elst–Pizarro.[5] Remote sensing and in-situ measurements will be conducted at 133P/Elst–Pizarro for at least one year.[1]


In 2018, a deep space exploration roadmap covering the 2020–2030 timeframe was proposed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences,[6] which included an asteroid exploration mission planned for launch around 2022 or 2024.[7][8] In spring 2019, after a design study for the mission was carried out by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the CNSA began soliciting international proposals for scientific instruments to be carried on ZhengHe.[1][3][5]


ZhengHe will incorporate several types of instruments, including wide/narrow angle multispectral and color cameras, a thermal emission spectrometer, a visible/near-infrared imaging spectrometer, a mass spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a charged/neutral particle and dust analyzer.[1][5] International contributions to these payloads are being encouraged.

The United Kingdom is considering the submission of a proposal for a penetrator to deliver a mass spectrometer to probe the subsurface ice of 133P/Elst–Pizarro.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Zhang, Xiaojing; Huang, Jiangchuan; Wang, Tong; Huo, Zhuoxi (18–22 March 2019). ZhengHe – A Mission to a Near-Earth Asteroid and a Main Belt Comet (PDF). 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b Snodgrass, Colin (October 2018). "Exploring the next frontier: the Main Belt Comets – Chinese MBC mission" (PDF). University of Edinburgh. p. 20. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b Gibney, Elizabeth (30 April 2019). "China plans mission to Earth's pet asteroid". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-01390-5. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  4. ^ "China to meet challenges of exploring asteroid, comet". Xinhua. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "China invites world scientists to explore asteroid, comet together". Xinhua. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  6. ^ Xu, Lin; Zou, Yongliao; Jia, Yingzhuo (2018). "China's planning for deep space exploration and lunar exploration before 2030" (PDF). Chinese Journal of Space Science. 38 (5): 591–592. doi:10.11728/cjss2018.05.591. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  7. ^ "China outlines roadmap for deep space exploration". SpaceDaily. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  8. ^ Wang, F. (27 June 2018), "China's Cooperation Plan on Lunar and Deep Space Exploration" (PDF), Sixty-first session (2018) of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, UNOOSA, retrieved 4 June 2019.

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