Dark Matter Particle Explorer / Wukong

Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE), or Wukong named after the Monkey King character in the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, is a space science mission designed to observe the direction, energy and electric charge of high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter. It is the first of five scientific missions that have been planned under the Strategic Pioneer Research Programme initiated by the China Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Discipline:.........Space science
No. of missions:....1
Launch date:........2015-12-17
Sponsor agency......China Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Contractor(s).......National Space Science Centre (prime), 
                    Shanghai Engineering Centre for Microsatellites (SECM)

Development of the DAMPE began in 2011, led by the National Space Science Centre (NSSC) of the CAS. Other participants of the programme include the Shanghai Engineering Centre for Microsatellites (SECM), Purple Mountain (Zijinshan) Observtory, CAS Institute of High Energy Physics, CAS Institute of Modern Physics, and University of Science & Technology of China (USTC), as well as international partners.

The spacecraft is 1.5 m x 1.5 m x 1.2 m in dimension and has an orbital mass of 1,850 kg. The on-board mission payload is 1,410 kg in mass and consumes 400 W power supplied by batteries and a pair of solar panel wings. Operating from a highly inclined Sun-Synchronous Orbit (apogee: 505 km, perigee: 499 km, inclination: 97.3º), the spacecraft has a design life of more than three years.

The DAMPE is essentially a high-power space telescope to detect high energy gamma ray, electron and cosmic rays. Its mission package consists of a plastic scintillator stripes detector (PSD) that serves as anti-coincidence detector and charge detector, a silicon-tungsten tracker-converter (STK), a Bismuth Germanium Oxide (BGO), and a neutron detector. The STK was developed in collaboration with four universities in Italy and Switzerland.

The primary scientific objective of the DAMPE is to measure electrons and photons with much higher energy resolution and energy reach than achievable with existing space experiments in order to identify possible Dark Matter signatures. It has also great potential in advancing the understanding of the origin and propagation mechanism of high energy cosmic rays, as well as in new discoveries in high energy gamma astronomy.

Dark Matter is a hypothetical matter that is thought to account for just over 25% of the universe, with dark energy making up about 68%, while normal matter (planets, stars, nebulae etc.) adding up to less than 5% of the universe. So far Dark Matter has not been detected directly but the search for the stuff that cannot be seen with telescopes continues long after Dutch astronomer Jan Oort first postulated the presence of dark matter particles in 1932.

With a launch mass of 1.9 t, the DAMPE satellite is the heaviest payload ever launched by the CZ-2D launch vehicle. The spacecraft and launch vehicle were signed off by the CAS for launch on 9 November 2015. They departed from Shanghai on a railway train on 14 November and arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on 18 November. The launch took place at 08:12 CST (00:12 UTC) on 17 December 2015, from Pad 603 (SLS2) of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC).

Satellite bus:......DAMPE
Mass (gross):.......1,850 kg
Payload mass:.......1,410 kg
Dimensions:.........1.50 m x 1.50 m x 1.20 m
Solar panel span:...N/A
Orbit:..............500 km
Designed life.......3 years
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