New radio telescope to support deep-space missions

China launched the construction of a 40-meter-aperture radio telescope in Shigatse, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, on Friday, to offer technical support for the country's lunar and deep-space probe missions in

the future.

The telescope, developed by Shanghai Astronomical Observatory (SHAO) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will be added to a very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) network in China.

VLBI is a technique that measures the time difference between the arrivals at multiple Earth-based antennas, thus simulating a virtual telescope with a size equal to the maximum separation between the telescopes.

The current VLBI network in China comprises four observatories across the country, located in Beijing, Shanghai, Urumqi and Kunming.

The inclusion of Shigatse's telescope, as well as another one to be built in northeastern China, will effectively strengthen the network's observation capability. It will be capable of rendering accurate measurements for two spacecraft at once, said Shen Zhiqiang, SHAO's director.

The telescope under construction is a large, fully movable, high-precision multipurpose radio telescope. The Shigatse station, at an elevation of about 4,100 meters, provides an excellent observation environment for the telescope.

It is also expected to facilitate more scientific findings in the fields of supermassive black holes and the dynamics of our galaxy, according to Shen.