SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China launched a relay satellite early on
Monday designed to establish a communication link between earth
and a planned lunar probe that will explore the dark side of the
moon, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Citing the China National Space Administration, Xinhua said the
satellite was launched at 5:28 a.m. (2128 GMT Sunday) on a Long
March-4C rocket from the Xichang launch center in the southwest
of the country.
“The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being
the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the
far side of the moon,” Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, manager of the
relay satellite project, as saying.
It said the satellite, known as Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, will
settle in an orbit about 455,000 km (282,555 miles) from earth
and will be the world’s first communication satellite operating
China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to
become a major space power by 2030. It is planning to launch
construction of its own manned space station next year.
However, while China has insisted its ambitions are purely
peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing
activities aimed at preventing other nations from using
space-based assets during a crisis.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait)