Beijing: China`s second unmanned lunar probe Chang`e-II today entered the its lunar orbit, marking successful completion of a crucial phase in its journey to the
Chang`e-II, which is part of China`s three-phase space program that aims to land an astronaut on the moon, will be manoeuvred into an orbit just 15 kilometres above the moon by the end of this month.
The Chang`e-II, named after Chinese mythical moon Goddess, which was launched on Oct 1 has entered the lunar orbit after applying brakes around 0830 AM IST decelerating
the satellite to successfully enter the orbit around the moon, official media reported.
The speed reduction helped the satellite to enter the moon`s gravitational field and begin 12-hour elliptical moon orbit, state television CCTV reported.
"This was crucial for the probe as it is the only one chance to enter the lunar probe. If the speed reduction has not succeeded the satellite might have missed the Moon
completely," it said.
The satellite will enter circular orbit at about 100 km from the moon at a speed of 117 minutes per orbit, it said. This is the first time Chinese lunar probe directly entered the earth`s moon transfer orbit without orbiting the earth first to reduce the travel time.
The satellite will eventually be manoeuvred into an orbit just 15 km above the moon.
At that point, Chang`e-II will take pictures of moon`s Bay of Rainbows area, the proposed landing ground for Chang`e-III planned to be launched in 2013 followed by manned landing mission in 2025.
The braking "laid a solid foundation" for Chang`e-II to carry out scientific explorations in its final orbit, the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre (BACC) said.
To acquire more detailed moon data, Chang`e-II will enter a lower lunar orbit about 100 km above the surface, compared with the 200-km altitude of Chang`e-1 launched in
2007, according to the control center. Before its first braking, the lunar probe had
travelled nearly 350,000 km.
In another development, China today launched two "space environmental research satellites".
The two satellites of the "Shijian VI-04" group which were launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in north China`s Shanxi province, the television report said.
The life span of the satellites will be two years. They would be carrying out experiments in space environment and radiation, it said.
The news of the launch of new satellites for "space environment probe", followed comments by a top Chinese space official that China is developing a deep space network with large antennae and communication facilities to support its future interplanetary missions to be launched for the exploration of solar system.
"China`s own deep space network will take shape in the next three to five years to support its exploration projects of the solar system," Qian Weiping, chief designer