China to develop satellite constellation for deep space exploration
China will develop a satellite constellation named Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, to provide communications, navigation and remote-sensing services for deep space exploration, according to a senior Chinese space expert.
Speaking at the First International Deep Space Exploration Conference held in Hefei, the capital of east China's Anhui Province, Wu Yanhua, chief designer of the major project on deep space exploration, said that China plans to build the satellite constellation in three phases.
A pilot of the constellation will be built around 2030 to support the fourth phase of China's lunar exploration program and the construction of the International Lunar Research Station. And a basic constellation will be built around 2040 to realize regional navigation and provide services for manned lunar exploration and deep space exploration for planets such as Mars and Venus, Wu said.
The satellite constellation is expected to be built into an expanded model around 2050 to provide services for exploring Mars, Venus, giant planets, as well as the edge of the solar system, Wu added.
As a part of the constellation, Queqiao-2, or Magpie Bridge-2, a relay satellite for communications between the far side of the moon and Earth, is planned to be launched in 2024, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
The satellite will serve as a relay platform for the fourth phase of China's lunar exploration program, providing communications services for Chang'e-4, Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7, and Chang'e-8 missions.
According to Yu Dengyun, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the future Magpie Bridge constellation will be a space infrastructure and public service platform built and operated in deep space. It will feature the capability of efficient communications, navigation, in-orbit computing, and information storage, etc.
During the conference, China's Deep Space Exploration Laboratory launched a global call for proposals for the design of the Magpie Bridge constellation in a bid to gather new ideas and solutions for the future satellite constellation.
The International Deep Space Exploration Conference, hosted by the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory, is one of the major activities held to celebrate the Space Day of China, which falls on April 24. The two-day event invited more than 500 guests from 14 countries and regions.