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SVOM (Space-based multiband astronomical Variable Objects Monitor) is a joint mission of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and CNES that is set to send aloft a satellite to observe gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) from a 600-km Earth orbit. GRBs are some of the highest-energy phenomena known in the Universe, generated from the explosion of massive stars more than 20 times the mass of our Sun, and from the merger of compact objects like neutron stars or black holes.
The SVOM satellite will be carrying four instruments, two of which were designed and built in France: ECLAIRs, a wide-field X-ray and gamma-ray camera; and MXT, a Microchannel X-ray Telescope. When ECLAIRs detects a GRB, the satellite will be repointed within minutes to follow up its observations with measurements by the other instruments. Alerts will be relayed to ground in less than one minute whenever a burst is detected to cue other space telescopes and large ground telescopes.
China will be responsible for the mission, launch, satellite and operations and will share responsibility with France for design and construction of the instruments and ground segment. The French contribution is being developed in partnership with research laboratories at the IRFU research institute at CEA, the French atomic energy and alternative energies commission, and at CNRS, including the IRAP astrophysics and planetology research institute, the LAM astrophysics laboratory in Marseille, the APC astro-particles and cosmology laboratory, and the IAP astrophysics institute in Paris.