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Chang'e 5-T1



The Chang'e 5 Test Vehicle (also referred to as the CE-5 Flight Test Device or Chang'e 5-T1) was designed as a test of the strategy planned for the 2017 Chang'e 5 lunar sample return mission. The mission comprised a bus and a sample return capsule, which were sent to loop around the Moon and head back to Earth, simulating a return from the Moon after collecting samples. The sample return capsule separated from the bus and reentered the Earth's atmosphere, landing by parachute to test the efficacy of this method of sample return. The purpose of the mission was to demonstrate hyper-speed semi-ballistic skip reentry technologies, including the circumlunar free return trajectory design, aerodynamic design and verification, thermal protection, guidance, navigation and control as well as a lightweight and minimized recovery system.

The main spacecraft is based on the Chang'e 2 design, a cubical (2.0 x 1.7 x 2.2 meter) main body based on the DFH-3 Comsat bus with two solar panel wings. Mounted on one panel of the bus is the Return Vehicle, an elongated hemisphere-shaped capsule which simulates the sample return capsule. The mass of the capsule was less than 335 kg. The booster third stage also carried the Manfred Memorial Moon Mission (4M) radio experiment, comprising a radio transmitter and a radiation experiment.

Mission Profile

The Chang'e 5 Test Vehicle launched on a Long March 3C/G2 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province, China. Launch took place at 18:00:04 UT on 23 October 2014 (2:00 a.m., 24 October, Beijing local time). The spacecraft was put in a brief Earth parking orbit before firing its upper stage boosters to enter a lunar transfer orbit. The orbit took it past the Moon with a closest approach altitude of about 11,300 km on 27 October at 19:03 UT and an apogee of approximately 380,000 km, and then around the Moon and back to Earth. Pictures of the Moon and Earth were taken throughout the mission.

About 5000 km from Earth, the Return Vehicle was released. The vehicle reached Earth on 31 October at a velocity of roughly 11 km/sec and conducted a skip re-entry to dissipate energy by "skipping" out of the atmosphere after initial contact and slowing down in the exosphere before final atmospheric entry. A drogue chute was deployed at an altitude of 10 km followed by a main chute. Touchdown was at Siziwangqi, near Huofutan in Inner Mongolia at about 22:40 UT Oct. 31, 6:40 a.m. Nov. 1 local Beijing time. It was recovered and returned to Beijing for study.

After releasing the Return Vehicle, the Test Vehicle continued past the Earth and made two maneuvers to bring it to the L2 Lagrangian point in late November. It left the L2 point and entered a 200 km altitude, 127-minute lunar orbit inclined at 43.7 degrees on 13 January 2015. In orbit it conducted tests of some of the maneuvers that would be necessary for a future sample return mission.

Change'e 5-T1 Booster Impact

The booster used to launch Chang'e 5-T1 went into a highly elliptical Earth orbit after launch. NASA calculations show it was 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. The time of impact for the object was about 12:26 UT, it impacted at latitude 5.226 N, longitude 234.486 E and left a double crater as imaged by the LRO Camera.

Alternate Names

  • 40283
  • ChangeE5T1

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2014-10-23
Launch Vehicle: Long March 3C/E
Launch Site: Xichang, Peoples Republic of China

Funding Agency

  • China National Space Administration (Peoples Republic of China)


  • Technology Applications

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



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