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Queqiao 2 Communications Relay Satellite Will Support Lunar Missions

China is getting serious about a communications relay for its lunar exploration program.

Queqiao 2 ("Magpie Bridge 2") will launch early next year and will be used to support China's upcoming Chang'e 6, 7 and 8 robotic lunar missions.

Chang'e 6 will aim to collect the first-ever samples from the far side of the moon, which never faces Earth. Queqiao 2, like its predecessor Queqiao for the Chang'e 4 mission, will be used to ping communications between teams on Earth and the lander spacecraft on the lunar far side.

Chang'e 6 is scheduled to launch in May next year, according to officials speaking during events marking China's national space day last week. That means Queqiao 2 should lift off early in 2024, to ensure it's in place before Chang'e 6 reaches the moon.

The new communications satellite will also perform a similar role to support the Chang'e 7 and Chang'e 8 lunar south pole landing missions, scheduled for 2026 and 2028. The latter will test 3D printing bricks from the lunar regolith.

(Via Space.com.)

Science fiction writer (and electronics engineer) George O. Smith was described by Arthur C. Clarke as "probably the first writer - certainly the first technically qualified writer - to spell out the uses of space stations for space communications." He describes the Venus equilateral relay station in his 1942 story QRM - Interplanetary:

The Venus Equilateral Relay Station was a modern miracle of engineering if you liked to believe the books. Actually, Venus Equilateral was an asteroid that had been shoved into its orbit about the Sun, forming a practical demonstration of the equilateral triangle solution of the Three Moving Bodies. It was a long cylinder, about three miles in length by about a mile in diameter...


(Venus Equilteral Station from 'QRM: Interplanetary')

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