Friday, July 19, 2024

China launches Queqiao-2 relay satellite tv for pc to assist moon missions

China launches Queqiao-2 relay satellite tv for pc to assist moon missions

HELSINKI — China launched its Queqiao-2 relay satellite tv for pc Tuesday to assist upcoming lunar far facet and south polar missions.

A Lengthy March 8 rocket lifted off from Wenchang Satellite tv for pc Launch Heart at 8:31 p.m. Jap, March 19 (0031 UTC March 20). The China Nationwide House Administration (CNSA) confirmed the Queqiao-2 satellite tv for pc was on a trajectory in the direction of the moon round 40 minutes after launch.

CNSA said Queqiao-2 had deployed its photo voltaic arrays and was in its predetermined orbit with a perigee of 200 kilometers and an apogee of 420,000 kilometers.

The 1,200-kilogram satellite tv for pc carries a 4.2-meter parabolic antenna and is a part of China’s plans for future lunar exploration and a stepping stone in the direction of constructing a lunar base within the 2030s.

The spacecraft will enter a extremely elliptical lunar orbit inclined by 55 levels as soon as it reaches the moon. The orbit is specifically designed to assist China’s Chang’e-6 lunar far facet pattern return mission, because of launch in Might. The far facet of the moon by no means faces the Earth, because the planet’s gravity has slowed the rotation of the moon over time. 

Queqiao-2 can have line of sight to each Chang’e-6—which is concentrating on Apollo crater within the southern hemisphere of the far facet—and Earth for a big portion of its orbital interval.

The spacecraft will later alter its orbital interval to raised assist the Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions to the lunar south pole later within the decade. 

These later missions are deliberate to detect volatiles and potential assets on the moon and check in-situ useful resource utilization methods, reminiscent of utilizing lunar regolith to supply bricks. The missions are precursors to the Worldwide Lunar Analysis Station (ILRS). 

Queqiao-2, or “Magpie Bridge-2”, is a extra succesful follow-up to Queqiao, launched in 2018. The sooner satellite tv for pc facilitated the Chang’e-4 mission—the first-ever lunar far facet touchdown. The growing older Queqiao relay satellite tv for pc stays operational in a halo orbit across the Earth-moon Lagrange level L2 roughly 70,000 kilometers past the moon.

Queqiao-2 will use X and UHF bands to speak with Chang’e spacecraft. It would use S and Ka-bands for communications with Earth. It options a number of information charges and reconfigurable software program.

The spacecraft might additionally assist different international locations’ lunar efforts. “Other than offering relay assist for future Chinese language lunar missions, it’s attainable to supply relay communication companies for different lunar touchdown exploration missions on the lunar south pole or lunar far facet sooner or later,” an official from DFH Satellite tv for pc, underneath the China Aerospace Science and Know-how Company (CASC), mentioned final yr.

Queqiao-2 additionally carries payloads as a part of the science goals of the 2026 Chang’e-7 mission. These are an excessive ultraviolet digital camera, an array impartial atom imager and an Earth-moon size baseline very lengthy baseline interferometry (VLBI) experiment.

Additionally aboard the launch have been a pair of small, experimental satellites named Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2. These will fly in formation in lunar orbit and conduct exams for navigation and communications expertise verification. 

Checks will embody satellite-to-ground laser ranging and inter-satellite microwave ranging strategies. The satellites are a pathfinder for the deliberate Queqiao lunar navigation and communication constellation.

China is aiming to launch round 100 instances throughout 2024. The nation’s earlier launch, final week, noticed the malfunction of an higher stage tasked with sending a pair of satellites in the direction of the moon. 

The higher stage seems to be in a really excessive excessive Earth orbit (HEO), someway wanting reaching the moon. China has not supplied updates on the mission since a terse report on the malfunction. It stays unclear if the mission might be salvaged.

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