China gears up for launch of Chang’e-2 moon mission

Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 10:29 by Tech Correspondent

China’s second moon rocket, Chang’e-2, is to be launched on October 1.

The third pre launch drill was completed on Saturday at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province. The satellite has now been installed in the Long March 3C launch vehicle. Chang’e-2 will be the 58th satellite to be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Chang’e-2 is named after a Chinese mythical moon goddess, and follows the launch of a recent high resolution Chinese spy satellite, about which there is little information.

Chinese state run newspaper Global Times Daily quoted Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of the Chinese lunar exploration team, as saying that only fuel needs to be added to the probe before it is ready for launch.

Xichang Satellite Launch Center chang'e-2 photo

Photo: Xichang Satellite Launch Center from where the Chang'e-2 will be launched

Locals living near the Xichang Center have been evacuated by the exploration team officials along with the local government. A six-km radius around the launch center must be free of people to prevent them from danger.

The mission has also dispatched space ships with satellite dishes to specific points in space to track satellites and provide support to Chang’e-2.

Although not much is known about China’s lunar mission, it appears that Chang’e-2 is to test soft landing technologies in preparation for Chang’e-3, which is to land on the moon in 2013. Chang’e-3 will be launched by Long March 3B.

Chang’e-2 carries a laser altimeter and a charge coupled device camera to take high resolution 3D pictures. Chang’e-2 will take pictures of possible landing sites for Chang’e-3.

The second Chinese lunar mission also has an impactor probe, says Space Daily, which will detach from the main craft and collide with the moon’s surface, thus causing an impact which will be observed from the Chang’e2.

Chang’e-2 is to take five days to reach its orbit. It will go 100 km closer to the moon than its predecessor Chang’e-1 did in 2007, and will be almost eight days faster. Chang’e-2 will orbit the moon about 15 km above its surface.

State-controlled Chinese newspaper People’s Daily reported that Chang’e-2 will be launched by Long March 3B launch vehicle, which is actually more powerful than Long March 3C, but based on pictures of the vehicle, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

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