China plans to build a constellation of relay satellites that will serve as a communication bridge that connects missions to the moon and beyond with ground operations on Earth. These satellites will be built by 2030, according to reports from Chinese state media.
Overview of Queqiao-2 Constellation
The satellite constellation, named Queqiao-2, or Magpie Bridge-2, after a bridge made up of magpies in Chinese mythology, will begin with the launch of a communications relay satellite in 2024. The satellite will be positioned between the far side of the moon and Earth to support uncrewed lunar missions scheduled for the current decade.
Current and Future Missions
The first lunar mission, Chang’e-6, is scheduled for launch in 2024, aiming to retrieve lunar samples from an ancient basin in the far side of the moon. This will be followed by Chang’e-7, which will explore lunar resources in the moon’s south pole, preparing for long-term human habitation expected in the future. Chang’e-8 will launch around 2028, constructing a basic model of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), which China is building in collaboration with Russia and Venezuela.
China plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2030, as part of its ambition to become a major space power. The next phase of the constellation’s construction will involve the creation of a basic constellation around 2040 to support communications, navigation, and remote-sensing services for manned lunar and deep space exploration missions to planets such as Mars and Venus.
China’s ambitious space program is aimed at establishing the country as a leading space power, and the relay satellite constellation is a significant step towards achieving this goal. With the Queqiao-2 constellation, China aims to make significant contributions to lunar exploration and deep space exploration in the coming years.