Chang’e-4 Relay Satellite Enters Planned Orbit

Von Karman crater, the planned landing site for Chang’e-4.

Chinese officials report the Chang’e-4 relay satellite has entered its planned orbit, where it will await the year-end launch of the program’s lunar lander and rover bound for the far side of the moon.

The satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) and launched on May 21, entered the Halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system, about 65,000 km from the Moon, at 11:06 a.m. Thursday after a journey of more than 20 days.

“The satellite is the world’s first communication satellite operating in that orbit, and will lay the foundation for the Chang’e-4, which is expected to become the world’s first soft-landing, roving probe on the far side of the Moon,” said Zhang Hongtai, president of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST)….

He said the Halo orbit was a three-dimensional irregular curve. It is extremely difficult and complex to maintain the satellite in orbit.

“If there is a tiny disturbance, such as gravitational disturbance from other planets or the Sun, the satellite will leave orbit. The orbit period is about 14 days. According to our current plan, we will conduct orbit maintenance every seven days,” Zhang said.

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