China to create a lunar satellite constellation

China plans to create a small satellite constellation around the Moon in order to provide communication and navigation for future missions on its surface. This was announced by the deputy director of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) Wu Yanhua.

The reverse side of the Moon and the Earth through the eyes of the Chang’e-5T spacecraft. Source: CNSA, Xinhuanet

According to Wu Yanhua, the first launch is planned in 2023 or 2024. It is expected that the new satellite constellation will be primarily used to support the Chang’e-7 mission. Its purpose is to deliver soil samples to Earth from the South Pole of the Moon.

China already has a relay satellite placed in a halo orbit around the L2 Lagrange point of the Earth-Moon system. It is used to relay data from the Chang’e-4 mission operating on the far side of the Moon. However, to maintain stable communication with the device located near the South Pole, a satellite in another orbit is needed. One of the existing concepts involves the deployment of a relay in a highly elliptical orbit with a height of 300 km pericenter, 8600 km apocenter, and an inclination of 54.8 °. The satellite located on it will be able to maintain communication between the Earth and the South Pole of the Moon for about 16 hours a day.

It should be noted that not only China has plans to use the lunar orbit. So, in May, the CAPSTONE spacecraft belonging to NASA will be launched to the moon of our planet. Its main objectives are to check the orbit where the Gateway station is planned to be located in the future, as well as testing an autonomous navigation system.

In turn, last year, ESA signed a contract with SSTL for the construction of the Lunar Pathfinder satellite. It will be used to provide data transmission services between the Moon and the Earth. It is also planned to use the device in an experiment to test the possibility of using existing navigation satellites to determine the location on the Moon. Currently, the launch of Lunar Pathfinder is scheduled for 2024.

According to

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