Recently, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced the winners of their joint initiative to conduct experiments on board the China Space Station (CSS). Six winning projects were selected, and three were conditionally selected, the winning institutions coming from a wide range of countries around the world. The research areas proposed by the winners included space medicine, space life science, biotechnology, microgravity fluid physics, microgravity combustion, astronomy, and space technologies.
As a world power and a major benefactor to Africa in terms of space technology, China has opened doors yet again for space scientists and technicians to submit space research and experiments that will fly onboard the China Space Station (CSS). China is expected to launch the space station core module in 2020, and launch the experimental cabin I and the experimental cabin II around 2022. After that, the cabins will merge to form a complete space station. It is expected that the space station will start operating after 2022.
Previously, nine projects from 17 countries became the first international cooperation projects for the China Space Station Science Experiment. At present, the China Space Station has officially opened the door for applications from around the world with respect to space science experiments and technical pilot projects.
The China Space Station is an advanced space laboratory capable of meeting a wide range of experimental needs. On the one hand, there are a large number of scientific laboratory cabinets in the experimental cabin to support in-cabin science experiments in all directions, including life science, fluid science, materials science, and basic physics. For example, in terms of basic physics, an ultra-cold atomic test cabinet could be arranged to study some special physical laws of ultra-cold atomic gases with temperatures around absolute zero degrees Celsius. The China Space Station has a high-precision time-frequency system of cold atomic clocks with an accuracy of 3 billion years with an error of less than 1 second, which can provide reference frequency and time information for navigation.
On the other hand, there are some standard load adapters outside the cabin, as well as some hanging points for large loads. Astronomical observations, earth observations, and space physics can be studied outside the cabin. In addition, the astronauts can also upgrade or replace the experimental conditions, and more experiments can be carried out.
Applications are open to experiments in more than a dozen research directions, including space life science, research on animals, plants, micro-organisms and cells; fluid science, studying some special laws under microgravity fluid; atomic physics study, and understanding the laws of atoms in an ultra-cold state. Other eligible experiments include using large-scale facilities outside the cabin to conduct observations of the universe, studying the origin and evolution of the universe, and studying black holes as well as dark matter.
Interested individuals or organisations should note the following, to increase the chances of a successful application:
- The submitted experiments must meet the spatial correlation, and be able to thrive under special conditions such as microgravity conditions or space radiation.
- The experiment must be innovative i.e. it must not have been done internationally, or even if it has been done internationally, there must be a significant degree of originality in the methods employed.
- The outcome of the experiment must be feasibly achievable. Consider whether the existing equipment and the laboratory cabinet can meet the experimental conditions, and if not, whether a new experimental device can be developed.
The experimental project declaration process is roughly divided into the following four steps.
- The first step is the collection of projects. At present, the reporting website has been opened and accepted for online reporting;
- The second step is to conduct a formal review to initially screen out eligible items;
- The third step is the communication review, inviting experts from the same industry to conduct peer review; and
- The fourth step is to review the meeting and organise experts in various fields to further sort out these application items. On this basis, project proposal proposals are formed.
The window for applications will close on August 31, 2019. Read this media release for more information.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.