The Monkey King
China’s Dark Matter Particles Explorer (DAMPE) has been successfully launched and is now wandering about the cosmos in a sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth. The DAMPE is tasked with studying high-energy particles and γ-rays in efforts to learn more about dark matter—the universe’s “missing matter,” the mysterious substance that makes up a vast portion of our cosmos but doesn’t interact with the electromagnetic spectrum (light).
The satellite was launched from a province in the northwest of China, boosted into space by a Chinese Long March 2D rocket.
Dubbed “Wukong” or “Monkey King,” the satellite is equipped with four sensors, which includes a BGO calorimeter, a silicon-Tungsten Tracker, a neutron detector, and a plastic scintillator detector. All of these sensors work towards capturing high energy particles to trace them back to their origins. Notably, the team believes these origins are dark matter particle collisions themselves. These four sensors are designed to able to detect both photons and electrons at a much higher resolution than the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) in the International Space Station.
Despite many efforts across the world, dark matter has continued to go unobserved, but the team behind Wukong believes that tracking down the source of the signals found by the AMS will lead to dark matter itself.
Watch the launch here:
China’s New Frontier
The DAMPE missions is intended to be just the first of five space science missions led by the Chinese, two more of which are scheduled to take place in 2016. Another one of these missions is billed as the first quantum-communications satellite designed to use a phenomenon called quantum entanglement to establish a quantum network between the satellite and Earth.
The other space science mission involves sending an X-ray telescope into orbit that has unique energy band sensing capabilities and is designed to detect radiation emitted from black holes.
All in all, these missions represent a new era in space for China and a bold leap forward in knowledge for us all.