The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is considering potential missions including a Ceres orbiter and a huge telescope to hunt for clues about the nature of dark matter.
Some mission proposals are published in the Chinese Journal of Space Science. These are the Very Large Area Gamma-ray Space Telescope (VLAST), a Space Weather program, a Ceres exploration program and a Gravity Experimental Satellite.
It is understood the Ceres proposal would be an orbiter carrying a ground-penetrating radar as a main payload, focusing on the “origin of Ceres and its underground ocean and volcanic geological activities.”
The only spacecraft to visit Ceres so far is NASA’s Dawn mission, approved under the Discovery Program and launched in 2007. Ceres is recognized as an ocean world with potential ongoing geological activity and could be further assessed for potential habitability. The mission could provide new insights in these areas, furthering understanding of Ceres and, by extension, ocean worlds and volatiles elsewhere in the solar system.
VLAST would seek to detect signals of dark matter in gamma ray emissions, following on from the DAMPE mission launched in 2015. It would also conduct gamma ray astronomy in the mega- and giga-electron volt range and make measurements of cosmic rays.
VLAST is expected to increase the sensitivity of the Fermi Large Area Telescopeby a factor of 10, according to a paper in Acta Astronomica Sinica in May this year. The roughly 16-metric-ton observatory would need to be launched by a Long March 5 rocket.