AKA: RRFV. Status: Operational 2014. First Launch: 2014-10-23. Last Launch: 2014-10-23. Number: 1 .
NASA NSSDC Master Catalog Description
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 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.
Chang'e-5 Flight Test Vehicle, also called the Reentry Return Flight Test Mission. The spacecraft was launched into a 209 km x 413,000 km lunar transfer orbit. The vehicle was a precursor to the planned Chang'e-5 mission and consisted of a satellite bus similar to the Chang'e-2 lunar orbiter, topped with a reentry vehicle, a subscale version of the Shenzhou landing module. The craft made an 8-day flight to loop around the Moon and return to Earth. It passed 11,300 km from the Moon on October 27 and returned to Earth on October 31. The descent capsule separated from the main vehicle at 21:53 GMT and landed north of Hohhot at 22:42 GMT. The service module made a burn at 21:56 GMT to avoid reentry and swung past the Earth to head out towards the Earth-Moon L2 point. Stationed at L2 Lagrangian point.