China to launch Queqiao-2 relay satellite in first half of 2024

Animation of how a relay communication satellite works. /CMG

Published by CGTN, 1 October 2023

China plans to launch the newly developed relay satellite Queqiao-2 (Magpie Bridge-2) in the first half of 2024 to support communications between its next lunar mission, Chang’e-6, and Earth, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Friday.

Queqiao-2 will be used to forward communications between lunar spacecraft and the ground crew. It is an upgraded version of the Queqiao satellite, which is the relay satellite for the Chang’e-4 mission. 

China’s Chang’e-6 mission, which is set to land on the far side of the moon around 2024, will target a crater inside the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Blocked by the moon, it cannot directly communicate with the Earth, and needs the Queqiao-2 satellite for transmitting the data.

The satellite will adjust its orbit after completing the Chang’e-6 mission, and continue to serve the follow-up Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions, as well as subsequent lunar exploration missions, Tang Yuhua, deputy chief designer of Chang’e-7 mission at CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center, told China Media Group (CMG).

As the designed lifespan of the first Queqiao is about to end, Queqiao-2 will also succeed it to provide relay communication services for the Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 probes on the far side of the moon, according to Tang.

Meanwhile, Queqiao-2 is expected to carry out important scientific exploration tasks.

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