China goes around the Moon

China goes around the Moon
On 24 October, China launched Chang'E-5-T1. The unmanned spacecraft is set to fly around the Moon then release a capsule that will return to Earth at the end of the month in order to test this phase for a future mission to return samples.

Launch of the Chang’E-5-T1 mission on top a CZ-3C rocket from Xichang base in China on 24 October.Credit: CNSA

The Chinese lunar programme continues to progress in stages. After sending 2 spacecraft around the Moon, on 14 December 2013, the Chinese space agency, CNSA (China National Space Administration) landed its Chang’E-3 lander in the Mare Imbrium on our natural satellite. The spacecraft was carrying the Yutu rover that surveyed the lunar surface until it was immobilised due to a malfunction in January 2014.
The next exploration mission planned in the programme is Chang’E-4 which must also complete an automatic landing, expected in 2015. Despite its name, ChangíE-5-T1 is still part of the chronology of the Chinese programme, this flight is in fact a partial technological test for the Chang’E-5 mission (without the T1) which in 2017 should take samples from the Moon’s surface and bring them back to Earth. Chang’E-5-T1 aims to test the capsule that will bring the samples back to our planet. A CZ-3C rocket sent the spacecraft to the Moon, taking-off from the Xichang Space Centre in the early hours of 24 October (local time). See the video below.

Chang’E-5-T1 consists of a carrier spacecraft fitted with solar panels and derived from the DFH-3 platform shared by several Chinese satellites and which was also used for the Chang’E-1 and 2 missions. However, this time, there was also a return capsule. Chang’E-5-T1 will not land on the Moon or collect any samples. The spacecraft will go around our natural satellite by 27/28 October then, when it is close to Earth, it will release the capsule so that it re-enters our atmosphere and lands underneath parachutes on the ground. This landing should take place on 31 October or 1 November.

The return capsule that will be tested during the Chang’E-5-T1 mission. It is similar to the Shenzhou manned, three-seater spacecraft, but smaller.Credit : CAST

Thus the CNSA is testing the re-entry phase in real conditions, i.e. at a speed similar to that of a return from the Moon, which is faster than from Earth’s orbit.
The third stage of the rocket which launched Chang’E-5-T1 is carrying a small European experiment called 4M. Developed by the company Lux Space, this is a radio transmitter which will emit a signal for radio amateurs. Given that the third stage is also heading to the Moon, this is an opportunity for the radio amateur community to follow a signal intended for them as the transmitter travels to our natural satellite. The name 4M stands for Manfred Memorial Moon Mission in honour of Manfred Fuchs, founder of the OHB company (satellite manufacturer) who died early this year.
The 4M website: http://moon.luxspace.lu

Mission control based in Beijing during the launch of Chang’E-5-T1.Credit: CNSA

Published 24 October 2014