Russia and China signed a cooperative agreement on the joint exploration of Mars on March 26, 2007. The project includes the launch of the Yinghuo-1 Chinese-made Mars probe.
Yinghuo-1 and the Russian Phobos-Grunt probe will be sent together to Mars on a Russian Zenit rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, the Beijing-based Xinjing Bao newspaper said, citing Chinese space officials.
During the flight to the Red Planet, the Chinese spacecraft will be attached to the Russian probe by an electric cable for in-flight power supply.
In August-September 2010, after a voyage of up to 11 months, Yinghuo-1 will separate from the Russian probe and enter Martian equatorial orbit. The spacecraft is expected to remain in orbit for one year.
Yinghuo-1 will focus mainly on the study of the external environment of Mars. Chinese space researchers will use photographs and data to study the magnetic field of Mars and the interaction between ionospheres, escape particles, and solar wind.
China has been studying the necessity and feasibility of Mars exploration since early 1990s as part of its national "863 Planetary Exploration" project.