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China to Launch Moon Satellite in Late 2006

China plans to launch a satellite to orbit the moon by December 2006 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province, southwest China, according to the country’s top space official.

The tentative plan for the launch is one year earlier than was announced late last year. Sun Laiyan, vice director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said last December the satellite will be launched by 2007.


Luan Enjie, CNSA director and commander-in-chief of the lunar satellite project, said Thursday that R&D on the project’s five major systems--satellite, launch vehicle, launch site, survey and control and ground application --is under way.


Government funding in the amount of 1.4 billion yuan (about US$170 million) has been allocated to the project.


The overall program is known as the Chang’e Project, after the woman who flew to the moon in an ancient Chinese fairy tale. The satellite has been designated Chang’e No. 1.


The lunar satellite system is based on China’s Dongfanghong 3 satellite platform and payload and other mature satellite technology. The satellite will weigh 2,350 kilograms, carrying a 130-kilogram payload. It is scheduled to orbit the moon for one year.


A domestically made Long March III A carrier rocket will be used for the launch.


The satellite will obtain three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyze the content of elements and materials, and probe the depth of the lunar soil and the space environment between the earth and the moon.


China’s lunar probe program is divided into three phases, starting with Chang’e No. 1. It is to be followed by the landing of an unmanned vehicle on the moon by 2010, and collecting samples of lunar soil with an unmanned vehicle by 2020 in the third phase.


(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2004)

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