ZhengHe (spacecraft)


Mission typeAsteroid sample return
Comet orbiter/lander
Mission duration10 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Start of mission
Launch date2025 (planned)[1]
RocketLong March 3B[2]
Launch siteXichang[3]
469219 Kamoʻoalewa orbiter
Sample mass0.2–1.0 kg (0.4–2.2 lb)
311P/PANSTARRS orbiter
Orbital insertion2032[4]

ZhengHe is a planned Chinese asteroid sample-return and comet exploration mission that is currently under development.


Planned for launch around 2025,[1] ZhengHe will use solar electric propulsion to explore the co-orbital near-Earth asteroid 469219 Kamoʻoalewa and the main-belt comet 311P/PANSTARRS.[5][6] The spacecraft will rendezvous with Kamoʻoalewa 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.[2] A nano-orbiter and nano-lander will be deployed to conduct remote sensing and sampling observations, and explosives will be used to expose potential subsurface volatiles for detection.[3] 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 311P/PANSTARRS.[7] A flyby of an unnamed asteroid may also be attempted en route to 311P/PANSTARRS.[3] Remote sensing and in-situ measurements will be conducted at 311P/PANSTARRS for at least one year.[2][8]


In 2018, a deep space exploration roadmap covering the 2020–2030 timeframe was proposed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences,[9] which included an asteroid exploration mission planned for launch around 2022 or 2024.[10][11] In spring 2019, after a design study for the mission was carried out by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the CNSA began soliciting international proposals for scientific instruments to be carried on ZhengHe.[2][5][7]

A CNSA press conference held on 12 June 2021 stated that ZhengHe was now planned for launch around 2025.[1]


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.[2][7] International contributions to these payloads are being encouraged.

The United Kingdom is considering a proposal for a penetrator to deliver a mass spectrometer to probe the subsurface ice of 311P/PANSTARRS.


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Andrew (30 June 2021). "China outlines space plans to 2025". SpaceNews. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c Jones, Andrew (5 August 2020). "China is moving ahead with lunar south pole and near-Earth asteroid missions". SpaceNews. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b Gibney, Elizabeth (30 April 2019). "China plans mission to Earth's pet asteroid". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-01390-5. PMID 32346150. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  6. ^ "China to meet challenges of exploring asteroid, comet". Xinhua. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "China invites world scientists to explore asteroid, comet together". Xinhua. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  8. ^ "China pushes forward exploration of small celestial bodies". Xinhua. 24 April 2021. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "China outlines roadmap for deep space exploration". SpaceDaily. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  11. ^ 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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