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The launch this week of a Chinese communications relay satellite to be used for its Chang’e-4 lunar lander also included the launch of two test cubesats designed to test such satellites in interplanetary space.
One of the two Longjiang (‘dragon river’) microsatellites that launched with Queqiao but set to operate together in lunar orbit, carries an optical microcamera (Arabic) developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) of Saudi Arabia.
The instrument weighs around 630 g and is capable providing images of the Moon with a resolution of 38 m per pixel at a perilune of 300 km and 88 m per pixel at the expected apolune of 9, 000 km away the lunar surface.
The Longjiang-1 and -2 satellites, developed by Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in Northeast China, will test low-frequency astronomy and space-based interferometry in lunar orbit. However, they also carry amateur radio payloads, meaning amateurs can send commands to take and download an image of the Moon using the KACST camera.
It seems that China is trying to compete with the U.S. in the development of interplanetary cubesats. The inclusion of an instrument developed in Saudi Arabia is also another indication that the new colonial movement in space continues to pick up steam.