A service module of China’s unmanned spacecraft successfully entered a 127-minute orbit around the moon on Tuesday. The service module conducted three braking maneuvers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to decelerate the spacecraft enough to enter the target orbit, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) told Xinhua.

China's Unmanned Orbiter Enters Orbit Around Moon

Service capsule is in good condition

Zhao Wenbo, vice-director of SASTIND’s moon probe said that, once the circular flight stabilizes, the service module will travel along the current orbit about 125 miles above the lunar surface to test key technologies for the next moon mission Chang’e-5. At its highest point, the module will be 3,293 miles above the lunar surface.

SASTIND said that the spacecraft has plenty of power remaining and is functioning in good condition. Technicians at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center have exercised stable and timely control, and system tests are progressing well. China launched the moon orbiter on Oct.24. The service module separated from the spacecraft’s return capsule on Nov.1. The capsule returned to Earth on Nov.1 after spending eight sessions circling the moon.

Chang’e 5 set for moon landing in 2017

After releasing the capsule, the service module reached the Earth-Moon second Lagrange Point (L2) at the end of November. It completed all the preset scientific tasks and left the L2 point on January 4. The camera system onboard will assist in identifying future landing sites for the Chang’e 5 mission. Chang’e 5 million is scheduled for launch in 2017 to bring lunar samples back to Earth.

The service module is loaded with equipment to collect data useful for planning the Chang’e 5 mission in 2017. Chang’e 5 is a robotic sample return mission that will make a landing on the moon, take samples of lunar rocks and soil, and return to Earth. China received assistance from Russia for the program. China’s moon exploration program has already sent a couple of orbiting probes. In 2013, it landed a probe on the moon, but it was not designed to return to Earth.