Relay satellite launched by China

Picture provided by Innovative Solutions In Space

Taking a step ahead for the mission to moon’s far side China has launched a relay satellite. This is one major accomplishment of China’s space agency as moon’s far side is one of the areas of experiment and research since a long time. This spacecraft will help to pave the way for this historic mission and will provide a lot of details about the related aspects. The relay satellite- Queqiao relay satellite lifted off atop a Long March 4C rocket and was launched on 20th May from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province at 5:28 PM. 

Queqiao is now moving towards the Earth-moon Lagrange point-2. This point is a gravitational stable spot and is around 40,000 miles beyond the lunar far side. The satellite is programmed in such a way that it would set up shop there and wait for China’s robotic Change 4 lander-rover spacecraft. This establishment and making of this spacecraft from China is under progress and it is expected that it will launch by November or December this year.  

Queqiao is carrying a Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE), which is a radio-astronomy package. NCLE is designed to hunt the radio emissions from the universe’s infancy, study space weather and characterize the radio environment of the Earth-moon system. Along with this it will also work to make a range of other measurements. 

As per the scientists from the China’s space agencies if everything goes well and as per the plan, Chang’e 4 will become the first ever craft to touch down on the moon’s far side. The far side of the moon is not visible to us as it is tidally locked to our planet earth. This is the reason why we only see the near side of moon. Queqiao will relay commands and data between the Chang'e 4 lander and its handlers here on Earth — a job the lander and rover can't do for themselves, because all that moon rock would get in the way.

As told by a team member, NCLE being a pathfinder experiment is supposed to provide the leads through its observations. This should help in the design and development of future radio-science instruments. These equipments will be then subjected to study the heavens from a perch in space or on the moon. 

Also riding to space today with Queqiao were two microsatellites called Longjiang-1 and Longjiang-2, which will also do some radio-astronomy research.