China to launch lunar navigation and communications test satellites

HELSINKI — China is preparing to launch a pair of lunar experimental technology satellites for a planned constellation of satellites to support lunar exploration.
The Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2 satellites are due to launch along with Queqiao-2, a lunar communications relay satellite to support upcoming Chang’e lunar far side and south pole missions. 
Tiandu-1 and 2 will fly in formation in lunar orbit and conduct tests for navigation and communications technology verification. Tests will include satellite-to-ground laser ranging and inter-satellite microwave ranging methods.
The objective of the Tiandu satellites is to inform the design of China’s proposed Queqiao lunar navigation and communication constellation. That system would provide supporting services to lunar surface operations. Robotic and crewed operations on the moon, particularly at the lunar south pole—an area of intense interest—or lunar far side face line-of-sight communications limitations. 

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