China’s Tianwen 4 to target Jupiter and Uranus with two spacecraft on one rocket

For now, the main spacecraft will be dedicated to investigating the Jupiter system and will orbit around the moon Callisto. It could launch a deeper investigation of the outermost of the Galilean moons.

The smaller spacecraft, which will have a mass on the order of a few hundred kilograms, according to Wang, will make a long voyage to Uranus. According to the presentation, the spacecraft could also fly by an asteroid on their way out from the Sun.

“The scientific goals are still under consideration,” Wang told Space.com in an interview. Their earlier presentations focused on either Callisto as the primary target, which could reveal the history of the Jovian system, or investigate the irregular satellites of Jupiter, which could provide an insight into the early days of the solar system itself.

CNSA did consider a lander earlier as part of the Callisto-focused mission, but Wang said that their latest plan includes an orbiter and no lander.

China launched its first independent interplanetary mission in 2020, in which the Tianwen 1 orbiter and the Zhurong rover explored Mars.

For its first-ever combined orbiting, landing, and roving in a single launch, the mission earned the International Astronautical Federation’s annual space achievement award on September 18 during the International Astronautical Congress in Paris.

Next, Tianwen 2 will launch around 2025 and target the small near-Earth asteroid Kamo’oalewa for a sample-return mission and a later visit to the main belt comet.

Leave a Comment