China's test spacecraft simulates orbital docking
China has conducted tests close to the moon to simulate an unmanned docking procedure needed in the country's next lunar mission expected to launch in 2017.
Beijing: China has conducted tests close to the moon to simulate an unmanned docking procedure needed in the country's next lunar mission expected to launch in 2017.
The service module of the unmanned lunar orbiter currently in space to trial such techniques entered a target lunar orbit after breaking manoeuvres, and flew to a suitable position for orbital docking between Tuesday and Saturday, said China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) today.
Liu Jizhong, deputy chief commander of the SASTIND's lunar probe project, said the service module has proven the reliability of key technology needed for the docking of two spacecraft in the Chang'e-5 mission, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The Chang'e-5 probe, expected to launch in 2017, will be tasked with landing on the moon, collecting samples and returning to Earth.
The current lunar orbiter was launched on October 24.
A capsule designed to separate and return to Earth did so as planned in November, while the service module continues its lunar flight to carry out preset scientific tasks.
The service module is operating smoothly and will carry out further tests on capturing lunar images, and may conduct tests assessing lunar gravity depending how the mission progresses.
Liu told Xinhua that the SASTIND expects to test launching Chang'e-5 with a Long March-5 carrier rocket in south China's Hainan Province this year.
"In the tests of the service module, we have simulated three key procedures needed for Chang'e-5: re-entry [to the moon's orbit] at high speed, adjustment of lunar orbit and docking in lunar orbit, laying a solid foundation for China's three-step lunar program -- orbiting, landing and returning," Liu said.