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Italy and China together to monitor seismic activity from space

An agreement was signed between ASI and CNSA to accommodate an Italian payload on board the Chinese CSES satellite

The main scientific objective of the CSES mission (China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite) is to study phenomena of an electromagnetic nature and their correlation with the geophysical activity to contribute to the monitoring of earthquakes from space.

An important memorandum of understanding was signed today at the Italian Embassy in Beijing, by the Italian Space Agency and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to initiate a collaboration in this particular research field, which sees Italy at the cutting edge. The CSES satellite will host an Italian payload.

"Today's agreement moves in a highly innovative field of research - said the ASI President, Enrico Saggese - The merger of the Italian and Chinese agency's scientific capabilities may lead to a more positive result". 

CNSA will develop, integrate and test the CSES, while the Italian payload will be designed and supplied by the ASI through collaboration with the National Institute of Nuclear Physics. The satellite will have a service life of five years and its launch is scheduled for September 2016.

Recent studies have pointed out the possible correlation between the electromagnetic emissions related to the seismic activity of the Earth and the occurrence of disturbances in ion-magnetospheric plasma.

Italian and Chinese researchers have collaborated regularly since 2004 to develop the instruments on board the CSES satellite. Italian research groups of INFN, led by Prof. Roberto Battiston, University of Trento (INFN - TIFPA, Trento Institute for Fundamental and Application Physics) and Chinese of the China Earthquake Administration (CEA) are involved.

"Italy's participation in the CSES project - said Roberto Battiston, professor at the University of Trento and INFN President of the Astroparticle Commission - involves the construction of a precision detector to measure electrons that precipitate into the atmosphere from the Van Allen belts".

"In this way - continues Battiston - we will be able to subject the mechanisms that connect our planet and its dynamics within the plasma surrounding the earth, to rigorous scientific testing, with the aim of developing new techniques for seismic monitoring from space".

The Italian contribution to the CSES mission consists of an innovative instrument for measuring energetic particles that precipitate from the Van Allen belts as a result of electromagnetic interference.

In honour of the Italian explorer Matteo Ricci, who with his work created a bridge between the West and China, the instrument will be called Li Madou, the name by which the Jesuit was known in China.

It will be built by INFN, as part of a collaboration involving their centres and the Universities of Trento, Rome Tor Vergata, Perugia and Bologna.

The satellite will carry a wide range of instruments (fluxgate magnetometers and search-coils, high energy particle detectors, LP-RPA and ion drift meters) able to detect joint disturbances of different parameters and physical quantities.