Queqiao takes flight: China launches Chang’e-4 relay satellite to moon’s far side


News Brief: China today launched a satellite that will serve as the communications relay for a future probe on the moon’s far side. The satellite, dubbed Queqiao (Chinese for “Magpie Bridge”), lifted off from the Xichang Launch Center in southwest China atop a Long March 4C rocket at 5:28 a.m. local time Monday (2:28 p.m. PT today), Chinese media reported. Its destination is a gravitational balance point about 33,000 miles beyond the moon, known as Earth-Moon L2. Queqiao will enter a halo orbit there and get ready to relay transmissions to and from China’s Chang’e-4 rover, which is due to launch late this year and land in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the lunar far side. Two research microsatellites, Longjiang-1 and Longjiang-2, were launched along with Queqiao.

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