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 explore the near-Earth asteroid 2016 HO3 and the main-belt comet 133P/Elst–Pizarro.[3] 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.[4] 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,[5] which included an asteroid exploration mission planned for launch around 2022 or 2024.[6][7] After a design study for the mission was carried out by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the CNSA began soliciting in the spring of 2019 international proposals for scientific instruments to be carried on ZhengHe.[1][3][4]


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][4] 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. ^ a b c "China invites world scientists to explore asteroid, comet together". Xinhua. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "China outlines roadmap for deep space exploration". SpaceDaily. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  7. ^ 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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