Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

New details have become available regarding China’s circumlunar return and reentry spacecraft. That vehicle was launched on October 24, 2014 (Beijing Time).

After nearly 196 hours of flight, the reentry capsule landed safely at Siziwangqi in Inner Mongolia of China on November 1st, recovered and delivered to Beijing on the same day.

That mission mimicked several conditions of China’s future Chang’e 5 moon mission, dedicated to returning samples of the lunar surface back to Earth. China is set to launch the robotic Chang’e 5 from South China’s Hainan province in 2017.

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

Last year’s circumlunar mission demonstrated hyper-speed semi-ballistic skip reentry technologies, including the circumlunar free return trajectory design, aerodynamic design and verification, thermal protection, guidance, navigation and control as well as a lightweight and minimized recovery system.

Lightweight thermal protection

A technical overview of the circumlunar mission has been published in Science China Technological Sciences. Lead author of the paper is MengFei Yang of the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing.

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

The aerodynamic design of China first small skip reentry capsule at hyper speed was verified by the successful reentry and landing, they report.

Seven new kinds of lightweight thermal protection material were developed for the capsule, promoting the development and use of composite material in China.

Free return trajectory

The total weight of the capsule was less than 740 pounds (335 kilograms), which required both limited power consumption and precise assembly.

The free return trajectory used lunar gravity to change the inclination of the capsule’s atmospheric entry, without any large orbit maneuver. This was the first time for China to apply such an orbit design.

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

Credit: Science China Technological Sciences

“The complete success of this mission indicates that the key technologies of circumlunar return and reentry have been broken through in China,” the space experts write.

Future deep space missions

“The success of reentry and return flight indicates that the key technologies of deep space exploration are verified in China. The key technologies demonstrated in this mission can be directly applied to subsequent lunar sample and return mission, and lays foundation for manned lunar exploration in the future,” the space technology team writes.

“China will take further steps to Mars, Venus and comets in the future. The key technologies such as aerodynamics, GNC [guidance, navigation and control], thermal protection and miniaturization design will provide technical supports for planetary entry and earth reentry missions, and promotes the continuous development of Chinese deep space exploration with greater achievements,” the co-authors of paper conclude.

2 Responses to “China’s Circumlunar Mission: New Details”

  • Phil Clark says:

    The descent craft is clearly a sub-scale Soyuz, so one wonders whether Shenzhou will be used for future piloted missions. Maybe the subscale model will also be used for Mars sample return? The declared mission profile for Chang’E 5 is far more complex than it needs to be for a lunar sample return, but is what you would expect (using larger-propellant, redesigned spacecraft) for a Mars sample return.

  • Michael Martin-Smith says:

    THe recent proposal for a demo Solar Power Satellite by c 2030 , to be developed from technologies to be verified on board the multi-modular space station ( 2018-22)( eg lightweight solar panels, beam transmission and robotic assembly, among others), is likely to improve the prospects for building the Long March 9 super-rocket over the same time period, since a major solar power satellite based economy would require heavy weight payloads to be launched, and assembled, in Space for shipment to Geosynchronous orbit.

    However, for a true conversion of world energy supplies from fossil/nuclear and inadequate terrestrial renewables to clean industrial scale solar power satellites would, many authorities over the past half a century agree that use of ET materials for fabrication of SPS would be much more economical, once a pre-existing lunar/asteroid based supply chain were set up.

    Given the Chinese longterm strategic goals- as propsed by Professors Duan Baoyang, Wang Xiji, et al, the lunar, spacestation and Staurn V class rockets all have a clear and logical end in propsect- which moreover, would give China pole position in providing large-scale, non-polluitng and above all independent energy for the future of China and Humanity at large. THe benefits of freedom of the rest of the world ( about 5-6 billion people) from uncivilised and unstable Middle Eastern regimes/ideologies and capricious Russian rulers would be a very healthy and peace-fostering outcome, as well.

    In a real sense, China would acquire a position of genuine leadership in the world without the tedious necessity of fighting wars of conquest
    THe future of Human Civilisation will be increasingly led by a positive and assertive China.
    Barring some economic/social collapse, China has every rason to adopt such a plan- indeed, would be mad not to do so
    Wansui Zhongguo!

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