Executive Intelligence Review


China’s Queqiao Lunar Relay Satellite Heads for Its L2 Communications Orbit

May 26, 2018 (EIRNS—Queqiao (“Magpie Bridge”), the relay satellite for the Chang’e-4 mission, carried out a braking maneuver at the Moon yesterday, to put it on a trajectory to reach the “halo” orbit needed to be the communications link between the Earth and the spacecraft on the far side of the Moon. The second launch, with the far side lander and rover, will take place toward the end of this year.

“There was only a short window for the braking,” explained project manager Zhang Lihua. “And Queqiao had only one chance, due to limited fuel.” The tricky braking maneuver took place just 100 km above the surface of the Moon. It will now take about two months for the relay satellite to reach its station.

Space experts worldwide recognize the challenge and importance of the mission. “Doing things in space, especially at a far distance from Earth, remains hard, so success is far from assured,” space historian John Logsdon said after the May 21 launch. “Spacefaring countries around the globe are focussing a great deal of attention on lunar exploration,” he said, “and this far side capability, if it comes into being, puts China in a leading position....”

The landing would be a “world historical first,” explained Bernard Foing, a prominent European lunar scientist. It would provide a “deep space opportunity to study the far side,” which, has a different composition than the sites that have been previously explored, he said.