International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

China-France launches SVOM Satellite for Gamma-Ray Burst Study


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SVOM Satellite, Gamma Rays Bursts.

Why in the News?

The Space Variable Objects Monitor (SVOM) satellite jointly developed by China and France was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

About Space Variable Objects Monitor (SVOM)

  • The SVOM is designed to study gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) resulting from explosive cosmic events like black hole births and neutron star collisions.
  • It is the first astronomy satellite developed jointly by China and France, following their collaboration on an oceanographic satellite launched in 2018.

Importance of Studying Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs)

  • GRBs are highly energetic bursts of gamma rays, lasting from less than a second to several minutes, occurring in distant parts of the universe.GRBs can erupt with a luminosity a quintillion times that of the Sun.
  • Types of GRBs:
  1. Short GRBs: Result from collisions of neutron stars or a neutron star with a black hole, lasting less than two seconds, often followed by kilonovas.
  2. Long GRBs: Result from the explosive deaths of massive stars, lasting two seconds or longer.

Mission and Objectives of SVOM

  • Primary Objective: To search for and study GRBs across the universe.
  • Data Collection: Measure and analyze electromagnetic radiation properties of GRBs.
  • Scientific Goals: Unlock mysteries about the universe’s evolution and gravitational waves, which are often associated with neutron star collisions.
  • Real-time Detection: Transmit GRB data to ground control within about one minute, enabling coordinated observations with ground-based stations globally.

Features and Capabilities of SVOM

  • Satellite Specifications: Weighs 930 kg and is equipped with four payloads, two developed by France and two by China.
  • French Contributions: ECLAIRs and MXT telescopes to detect and capture GRBs.
  • Chinese Contributions:
  1. Gamma Ray Burst Monitor (GRM): Measures the spectrum of GRBs.
  2. Visible Telescope (VT): Detects and observes visible emissions immediately after a GRB.
  • Orbit Details: Placed in a low Earth orbit at an altitude of 625 km, with an orbital period of 96 minutes.

Significance of SVOM’s Findings

  • Early Universe Insights: Aim to detect the earliest GRBs, providing information on the universe’s early stages and evolution.
  • Kilonova Detection: Capability to search for kilonovas, enhancing understanding of stellar evolution and the origin of heavy elements like gold and silver in the universe.


[2019] Recently, scientists observed the merger of giant ‘blackholes’ billions of light-years away from the Earth. What is the significance of this observation?

(a) ‘Higgs boson particles’ were detected.

(b) ‘Gravitational waves’ were detected.

(c) Possibility of inter-galactic space travel through ‘wormhole’ was confirmed.

(d) It enabled the scientists to understand ‘singularity’.

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