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Relay satellite-carrying rocket arrives at launch center

By ZHAO LEI | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-22 19:51

The Long March 8 carrier rocket tasked with launching the Queqiao 2 relay satellite arrived at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on Thursday, said the China National Space Administration.

The rocket will be assembled and then undergo ground tests at the coastal launch complex with the satellite, which was transported to Wenchang earlier this month, the agency said in a brief statement, adding that the launch mission is scheduled to take place in the first half of this year.

Queqiao 2, or Magpie Bridge 2, is China's second relay satellite dedicated to the country's lunar exploration endeavors and will be used to transmit signals between ground control and the Chang'e 4, Chang'e 6, Chang'e 7 and Chang'e 8 robotic probes.

Queqiao 2's predecessor, Queqiao 1, was launched by a Long March 4C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in May 2018 and has been participating in the country's lunar program since.

Once the new relay satellite is in orbit, the Chang'e 6 spacecraft will head for the moon, where it is scheduled to land before July. The spacecraft will be tasked with bringing back samples from the moon's little-known far side.

Designed and developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the Long March 8 is 50.3 meters tall and has two core stages and two side boosters. It has six engines propelled by liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen and kerosene.

With a liftoff weight of 356 metric tons, it is capable of sending payloads weighing 4.5 tons to a sun-synchronous orbit 700 kilometers above Earth or satellites with a combined weight of 2.8 tons to a geostationary transfer orbit, according to the academy.

The Long March 8 went on its debut mission in December 2020 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center.

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