China is preparing to construct a lunar navigation and communication system

China is preparing to launch a pair of experimental satellites to the moon. They are needed to support future missions that will operate on its far side and the South Pole.

The flag of the People’s Republic of China, installed on the Moon by the Chang’e-5 mission. Source: CNSA/Handout via Xinhua

We are talking about spacecraft called Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2. They will be launched together with the Queqiao-2 relay satellite. The mass of Tiandu-1 is 61 kg, Tiandu-2 is 15 kg. They are equipped with the hardware necessary for communication, a space router, a laser retroreflector and other payloads.

It is assumed that the Tiandu spacecraft will become the first stone in the foundation of a larger satellite constellation that will provide navigation and communication for future Chinese missions — especially those that will work on the far side of the Moon and its South Pole.

As for Queqiao-2, it will be put into a “frozen” elliptical orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will be used to provide communication with the Chang’e-4 spacecraft and the Yutu-2 lunar rover operating on the back of the moon, as well as to support future Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions.

 China has not announced the exact launch date of Queqiao-2 and a pair of Tiandu satellites. It is expected to take place in February or March 2024. The ChangZheng-8 rocket will be used for the mission.

As for the Chang’e-6 mission, it is assumed that it will go to the Moon in May 2024. Its purpose is to deliver a sample of the substance from the South Pole of the moon to Earth.

You can learn more about how China is exploring the Moon from our article.

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