Dare to Know: China’s Game-Changing Move on Lunar Exploration

's ambitious lunar strategy took a leap forward in the early hours of March 20th with the third successful of the CZ-8 from Wenchang site. The highlight of this mission was the successful deployment of the Queqiao-2 relay probe to the Moon.

Successful Mission of Queqiao-2

The Queqiao-2 relay probe, a key component of China's ongoing lunar strategy, has reached its destination. Had the mission not been successful, it would have resulted in a delay for the anticipated Chang'e 6 mission. This next-generation satellite is already making headway, deploying its sizable 4.2-meter diameter antenna.

As a relay satellite, Queqiao-2 boasts a highly inclined and elliptical trajectory. This feature enables it to maintain a constant line of sight with both the lunar southern hemisphere and our home planet. Its main task is to facilitate signal transmission between Earth and the Chinese lunar surface missions.

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Queqiao-2: An Upgrade from its Predecessor

China had first made strides in lunar back in 2018 with the launch of Queqiao-1. The Queqiao-2 however, is an artefact of , weighing in at approximately 1.2 tons, making it nearly triple the weight of its predecessor. This satellite contains more advanced internal equipment, electronic shielding, and a greater fuel reserve. It also carries three scientific instruments: a UV camera, a neutron detector, and VLBI.

Future Lunar Exploration Plans

China's lunar ambitions don't stop with Queqiao-2. This relay satellite is expected to function until the end of the present decade. The ultimate goal is to replace it with a small constellation of lunar satellites, tasked with handling communications, relative positioning, time referencing, and navigation aid.

To test some of these functions, two small satellites, Tiandu 1 and 2, were also launched along with Queqiao-2. A launch attempt on March 14 didn't go as planned, leaving two other small satellites, DRO-A and DRO-B, in a smaller orbit than intended. They were initially meant to venture to the Moon and test formation flying and relative navigation.

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With the success of the Queqiao-2, China has strengthened its standing in the race for lunar exploration. Beyond the Chang'e 6, 7, and 8 missions, the country has its eyes set on manned missions to the lunar surface.

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