Xinhua news agency reported the satellite named Queqiao launched aboard a Long March-4C rocket that blasted off at 5:28 a.m. (21.28 GMT) from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country’s south-western province of Sichuan, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
“The launch is a key step for China to realise 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.
About 25 minutes after liftoff, the satellite separated from the rocket and entered an Earth-Moon transfer orbit, Xinhua reported.
Queqiao is carrying the Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer, which will listen for low frequency radio signals “that carry clues to the time a few hundred million years after the bang, when clouds of hydrogen were spawning the universe’s first stars,” according to science news website space.
Such frequencies are blocked by the earth’s atmosphere, according to the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, which built the Explorer.
Queqiao will be positioned 64,000 km from the farthest side of the Moon and will also be used in further lunar exploration by the China National Space Administration.
Besides the Explorer, Queqiao will also launch two additional satellites Longjiang-I and Longjiang-II for Chinese experiments, according to space.com.
NAN reports that the first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957, and initiating the Soviet Sputnik programme, with Sergei Korolev as chief designer.