China's lunar probe Chang'e-2 was successfully launched, control centre at the Xichang satellite launch site in southwest China's Sichuan Province announced on Friday.
Chang'e-2 arrived at an Earth-Moon transfer orbit after it separated from the carrier rocket, which has a perigee of 200 km and an apogee of about 380,000 km from the earth, according to the centre.
The centre made the announcement after the satellite successfully entered the orbit and unfolded its solar panels.
The satellite blasted off at 6:59:57 p.m. on a Long March 3C carrier rocket from No. 2 launch tower at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre.
The lunar satellite is expected to take about 112 hours, or almost five days, to arrive at its lunar orbit.
The satellite might end up in one of three different places after it accomplishes its six-month mission, said the chief designer of Chang'e II satellite system.
Huang Jiangchuan said unlike Chang'e I, Chang'e II would be directly carried to the lunar orbit by rocket, so a large amount of fuel would be left after its mission, enabling it to do more work.
Mr. Huang said scientists and technicians were considering three possible extra missions, but no final plans were yet decided.
The first was staying in the lunar orbit, continuing to transfer data back to the Earth for further research before eventually landing on the Moon as an experiment for future lunar probes. In the second scenario, it would leave the Earth-Moon system, flying into outer space to test China's capability to probe further into space.
The third would be a “homecoming,” altering its orbit to become an earth orbiter.
Mr. Huang said its future would be decided on the basis of its performance in the designated mission and its condition when the mission was completed.
The lunar probe will test key technologies and collect data for future landings of Chang'e III and Chang'e IV, and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area.
Chang'e II was built as an alternative to Chang'e I, which was launched in October 2007 and maintained a 16-month lunar orbit. The series of Chang'e probes is named after a legendary Chinese Moon goddess.
Keywords: lunar probe