Chang'e 5-T1 (Chinese: 嫦娥五号T1; pinyin: Cháng'é wǔhào T1) is an experimental robotic spacecraft that was launched to the Moon on 23 October 2014 by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to conduct atmospheric re-entry tests on the capsule design planned to be used in the Chang'e 5 mission. As part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, Chang'e 5, launched in 2020, is a Moon sample return mission. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese Moon goddess Chang'e. The craft consisted of a return vehicle capsule and a service module orbiter.
|Mission type||Chang'e 5 precursor mission, lunar flyby and Earth reentry|
|Mission duration||Elasped: 7 years, 4 months, 13 days|
|Launch mass||Service Module approximately 2,215 kg, return capsule under 335 kg|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||23 October 2014, 18:00UTC|
|Rocket||Long March 3C/G2|
|Launch site||Xichang LC-2|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||31 October 2014, 22:42 UTC|
|Landing site||Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia|
|Regime||Lunar free return|
The return capsule of Chang'e 5-T1, named Xiaofei (Chinese: 小飞) meaning "little flyer" in Chinese, landed in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia on 31 October 2014, 22:42 UTC. The CE-5-T1 Service Module entered lunar orbit on 13 January 2015. Its initial orbit was 200 x 5300 km with period of 8 hours.
It consisted of a DFH-3A "Chang'e 2 type" spacecraft with a mass of approximately 2,215 kg (including 1,065 kg of fuel) carrying the Chang'e 5 return capsule with a mass of under 335 kg. The craft was launched by a Long March 3C rocket into a lunar free return trajectory. It looped behind the Moon and returned to Earth, with the return capsule testing the high speed atmospheric skip reentry.
The DFH-3A "service module" remained in orbit around the Earth before being relocated via Earth-Moon L2 to lunar Lissajous orbit by 13 January 2015, where it will use its remaining 800 kg of fuel to test maneuvers key to future lunar missions.
In February and March 2015 the DFH-3A "service module" performed two "virtual target" rendezvous tests for the future Chang'e 5 mission. In April 2015 the small monitoring camera was used to obtain higher resolution photos of Chang'e 5's landing zone.
The Long March 3C third stage booster, left in orbit between the Earth and the Moon, is now expected to have hit the Moon on March 4, 2022, impacting in or near the Hertzsprung crater. Independent spectral analysis from the University of Arizona confirmed its Chinese origin. NASA has published a note on the event. The US Space Command confirmed the third stage never reentered in Earth's atmosphere, and a compatible item it's now present on the Space-Track catalogue as object 85900. The impactor object was previously misidentified as 2015-007B, the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket which launched NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft, but later correctly identified as the Long March stage in February 2022. The event showed how hard it is to track small objects in deep space.
Chang'e 5-T1 also carries the first commercial payload to the Moon called the 4M mission (Manfred Memorial Moon Mission) for the German space technology company OHB System, in honor of the company's founder, Manfred Fuchs, who died in 2014. Technical management of the 4M mission was performed by LuxSpace. The payload weighs 14 kilograms and contains two scientific instruments. The first instrument is a radio beacon to test a new approach for locating spacecraft. Amateur radio operators were encouraged via prize incentives to receive the transmissions and send results back to LuxSpace. The second instrument, a radiation dosimeter provided by the Spanish company iC-Málaga, continuously measured radiation levels throughout the satellite's circumlunar path.
The booster used to launch Chang'e 5-T1 went into a highly elliptical Earth orbit after launch. Some calculations show it is on a trajectory to impact the far side of the Moon on March 4, 2022, although China's foreign ministry has denied this identification, stating that the booster had already burned up in the Earth's atmosphere. Estimated time of impact for the object is 12:26 UT (7:26 a.m. EST), estimated position at latitude 5.18 N, longitude 233.55 E.