For the first time, ESA tracking stations have transmitted telecommands to a Chinese satellite. This morning at 07:15 CET (06:15 UTC), China's mission control reported that commands transmitted from Maspalomas station had been successfully received by the Chang'e-1 Moon mission.
ESA ground tracking support to China's Chang'e-1 successfully started on 1 November 2007 at 04:35 CET (03:35 UTC) with the first receipt of telemetry signals from the Chinese mission at ESA's 35m deep-space station at New Norcia, Australia.
Two hours and 39 minutes later, the first telecommands to Chang'e-1 were transmitted via ESA's 15m station in Maspalomas, Spain, when the Chinese satellite was nearly 200 000 km from Maspalomas station. An hour later, the ESA station in Kourou, French Guiana, also successfully received telemetry and transmitted commands to Chang'e-1.
New Norcia, Maspalomas and Kourou stations are part of ESA's ESTRACK ground station network, and are remotely controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany.
The successful communications mark a major milestone as this is the first time a telecommand to a Chinese spacecraft has been transmitted from an ESA station. In addition to receipt of telemetry and transmission of telecommands, the Maspalomas and Kourou stations also performed ranging and Doppler measurements used to determine the spacecraft's location and direction.
"The support began as planned and without any problems. We were confident it would work given the extensive preparations and intensive testing we did in close cooperation with the Chinese," said Erik Soerensen, Head of the System Requirements and Validation Section at ESOC.
Explore further: Up, up and away, in the name of science education