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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Queqiao 2: China’s relay satellite rockets to lunar orbit

The successful launch of Queqiao 2 highlights China's commitment to advancing space exploration capabilities.

China has taken another bold step in its space exploration journey with the successful launch of Queqiao 2, also known as Magpie Bridge 2, on Wednesday morning. The relay satellite, atop a Long March 8 carrier rocket, embarked on its journey to lunar orbit from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province. This mission marks a significant milestone as China gears up for future lunar expeditions, paving the way for groundbreaking discoveries and collaborations in space exploration.

Setting the Stage for Lunar Exploration

Queqiao 2 is poised to play a pivotal role in China’s ambitious lunar exploration program. With a weight of approximately 1.2 metric tons, the satellite is equipped with two major payloads: a 4.2-meter parabolic antenna for communication with lunar probes and a 0.6-meter parabolic antenna for data transmission to ground control. Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology, Queqiao 2 is based on the CAST2000 satellite framework, ensuring robust performance and reliability in the challenging lunar environment.

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Preparing for Chang’e Missions

Following its launch, Queqiao 2 will undergo a series of maneuvers, including mid-course trajectory corrections and braking operations, before entering an elliptical frozen orbit around the moon. Once in position, the satellite will engage in two-way communication tests with the Chang’e 4 probe on the lunar surface and the upcoming Chang’e 6 mission. These tests will evaluate the satellite’s performance and capabilities in relaying signals and data between lunar missions, setting the stage for future exploration endeavors.

Long-Term Objectives

Beyond its immediate tasks, Queqiao 2 holds significance for China’s long-term lunar exploration plans. It will serve as a vital link for the Chang’e 6 mission, scheduled for launch before July, and pave the way for future missions such as Chang’e 7 and 8. These missions are integral to the development of the International Lunar Research Station, a multinational endeavor set to shape the future of lunar exploration in the 2030s. Queqiao 2’s role in facilitating communication and data transmission will be instrumental in realizing the objectives of this ambitious collaborative project.

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The successful launch of Queqiao 2 highlights China’s commitment to advancing space exploration capabilities. Engineers at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology implemented innovative solutions to overcome challenges posed by adverse weather conditions and upper-atmospheric winds. Additionally, enhancements such as heat-proof paint coatings on the Long March 8 rocket demonstrate meticulous attention to detail in ensuring the mission’s success. These technological advancements reaffirm China’s position as a leading player in space exploration.