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The Xinhua News Agency, the official Chinese news agency, has announced that the Chinese space agency is planning a 2010 launch of a space telescope to study x-ray sources such as black holes and neutron stars.

The Chinese space agency is called CNSA, for China National Space Administration. It was created in 1956 with the help of the U.S.S.R. (now Russia).

The dedicated astronomy mission, called Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), is being built to perform a collimated hard x-ray (HX) survey of the entire sky with both high spatial resolution and high sensitivity.

The energy range of hard x-rays is about 20 to 200 kiloelectron-Volts (keV). Hard x rays have more energy than soft x rays (SX). For instance, when medical x rays are produced, a metallic sheet is placed in front of the x-ray machine so the soft x rays are filtered out and only the more energetic hard x rays reach the patient. Generally, x rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths of between 10 to 0.1 nanometers (where one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter).

The HXMT mission was selected in 2000 as a project under the Major State Basic Research Program of China. In October 2005, HXMT entered the full design phase and was listed as a possible candidate for the first dedicated astronomy satellite.

The English version of the HXMT web site is: http://www.hxmt.cn/english/?PHPSESSID=c59251fe85b5d21108218397e22d5986.

The mission is part of a larger Space Science Development Plan, which was formed by the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The basic goal of the Plan is to develop space science related activities for the betterment of the Chinese economy and security.

The English version of the Web site of the China National Space Administration is: http://www.cnsa.gov.cn/n615709/cindex.html.

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