Thursday, March 21, 2024

China's Second Moon Communications Satellite Supports New Exploration Missions

China's Second Moon Communications Satellite Supports New Exploration Missions

China successfully launched into preset orbit the Queqiao-2 relay communication satellite. The Long March-8 Y3 carrier rocket took off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in South China's Hainan Province at 8:31 am on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

Queqiao-2, or Magpie Bridge-2, will serve as a relay platform for the fourth phase of China's lunar exploration program, providing Earth-Moon communications services for Chang'e-4, Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7, and Chang'e-8 missions. It is another key step for supporting future lunar exploration missions, such as retrieving samples from the far side of the moon.

Due to the Moon's perpetual one-sided facing away from Earth, probes landing on its far side are obstructed by the Moon itself, hindering direct measurement, control communication, and data transmission with Earth.

As the fourth phase of China's lunar exploration project focuses on landing exploration and sampling sites primarily situated in the Moon's South Pole and far side areas, the need arises for more versatile and robust relay satellites. These satellites will serve as a new relay communication station on the Moon for communication.

"As for now, following the successful launch of Queqiao-2, it is poised to fulfill subsequent missions including Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7, Chang'e-8, and other related endeavors," said Ge, China National Space Administration's spokesman for Queqiao-2's launch.

The main goal of the fourth phase is to carry out scientific exploration on the Moon's South Pole and set up a fundamental type of lunar scientific research station. The fourth phase will be carried out in three steps, with the Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7 and Chang'e-8 probes being launched before 2030.

The Chang'e-6 is expected to be launched in the first half of 2024. The Chang'e-8 will constitute, together with Chang'e-7, the basic model of a lunar research station.

Queqiao-1 was launched in 2018 and supported the Chang'e 4 lunar farside mission.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)

Duration: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Release Date: March 20, 2024

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