The Chinese Chang’E-2 satellite is scheduled to be launched on 1 October from the Chinese Xichang Satellite Launch Center. ESA will provide tracking services.
Chang’E-2 will be China’s second lunar orbiter. The first, Chang’E-1, was launched on 24 October 2007 and entered lunar orbit on 5 November that year. Its mission lasted until 1 March 2009. Chang’E-2 will conduct research from 100 km above the Moon, twice as close as its predecessor.
As for Chang’E-1, the 15-m European Space Tracking (ESTRACK) station at Kourou, French Guiana, will be used to track Chang’E-2. Engineers at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany, will be in vocal communication with Chinese mission controllers at the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center (BACC).
ESOC support will start during the cruise phase to the Moon, continuing through lunar orbital insertion and two manoeuvres to lower the spacecraft into its operational orbit. This is foreseen to last until 10 October.
Engineers and ground control experts from ESOC have spent months preparing to support the mission. A series of simulations has been performed between ESOC, Kourou and BACC.
"There has been a lot of preparation on the ESTRACK side and now we’re ready to go," said John Reynolds, Operations Manager for ESTRACK in support of Chang'E-2.
ESA’s tracking services for China first began with the Double Star mission, which conducted studies of the Sun’s effects on Earth’s magnetic environment jointly with ESA’s Cluster quartet. Recently the International Academy of Astronautics awarded the 2010 Laurels for Team Achievement to ESA’s Cluster and China’s Double Star. Now the support continues with this latest series of lunar missions.
"I am pleased that the ESA’s ESTRACK network is a resource that benefits not only the Agency but also all space science through such international cooperation," said Erik Soerensen, Head of the Ground Facilities External Services Section at ESOC.
Head of the Ground Facilities External Services Section