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China Launches Test Orbiter for Lunar Mission

RIA Novosti

15:33 24/10/2014

MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - China has launched an unmanned spacecraft, named Chang'e-5, on Friday, with hopes the probe will carry out the country's first mission to the Moon and back, CCTV reported.

The mission is aimed at testing technologies which are vital for the success of the country's first lunar mission which will return to the Earth.

The launch of Chang'e-5 took place at 18:00 UTC. The lunar orbiter was carried by an advanced Long March-3C launch vehicle from the LC2 launch complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The spacecraft separated from the rocket and entered the expected orbit shortly after the liftoff, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said. The orbiter will head into Lunar Transfer Orbit, then perform a flyby around the Moon and re-enter terrestrial atmosphere. The whole mission will take about eight days.

On its return, the test spacecraft will approach the atmosphere at a speed of nearly 11.2 kilometers per second, then it will slow down and re-enter the atmosphere. The landing will take place in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The flagship mission is planned to obtain experimental data and validate the technologies such as navigation and control, heat shield and trajectory design for the future lunar mission. The probe Chang'e-5 is expected to be sent to the Moon, collect samples and return to Earth in 2017.

It is the first time China has conducted a test of this sort; the probe will make a half orbit around the Moon at a height of 380,000 kilometers and then return back to Earth.

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program has a three phase design. The first phase was aimed at orbiting the Moon, with the second phase having the objective of making a soft landing, while the third phase purports to bring a sample of the lunar surface back to Earth.

China carried out Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010 respectively, capping the first step of its lunar program.

The ongoing second phase was marked by the launch of Chang'e-3, equipped with the country's first moon rover Yutu. The probe succeeded in soft landing on the moon in December 2013. Chang'e-4 is the backup probe of Chang'e-3 and is being used for testing and validating of the technologies for future probes.

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