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Laser Technologies Helped Chang'e-5 Successfully Explore the Moon

January 11, 2021

The Chang’e-5 Lunar Probe Mission is China's most important space program in the near future, and also the culmination of the country's space launch campaign in 2020. China successfully launched Chang’e-5 lunar probe on a Long March-5 rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Site on November 24. The Chang'e-5 probe consists of four parts: a lander, an ascender, an orbiter and a returner. Different from China's previous lunar exploration missions, Chang'e-5 will not only probe the moon but also return with samples, making the task more complex and arduous.

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The whole Chang'e-5 lunar exploration and soil retrieval project is the most difficult space project in Chinese history, and it embodies the achievements of many of our highest scientific and technological fields. The Chang'e-5 lunar probe landed safely on Dec.17 in Siziwangqi of Inner Mongolia, with lunar samples weighing 1,731 grams. It is the first lunar soil taken from the moon in the past 40 years, marking a complete success of the Chang'e-5 lunar probe mission.


Photoelectric technology has made an important contribution to space engineering, and laser technology has also been applied in many ways in this lunar exploration.


Shanghai Institute of Science and Technology of Chinese Academy of Sciences is responsible for the development of lunar mineral spectrometer, laser range and velocity measuring sensor and laser three-dimensional imaging sensor.

The lunar mineral spectrometer is one of the payload of the lunar probe, which will conduct spectral detection and mineral composition distribution analysis in landing sampling area of the lunar surface.


The laser range and velocity measuring sensor and the laser three-dimensional imaging sensors are the important stand-alone devices of Guidance Navigation and Control(GNC) subsystem, and the important technical guarantee for the successful soft landing of the probe on the lunar surface.


The Shanghai Institute of Optical Machinery of Chinese Academy of Sciences undertook the development of three lasers, the core components of the subsystem. On the basis of the related work of Chang'e-3 and 4, the technology of Chang'e-5 has been succeeded and upgraded by two types of lasers. The rangefinder module uses the laser to work from the circumlunar phase and measures the distance between the lander and the lunar surface with a large energy and narrow pulse width laser. When the lander is hovering, the 3D imaging sensor laser utilizes high frequency and narrow pulse width pulse laser to carry out high precision 3D imaging of the lunar surface, which provides the basis for selecting the precise landing site. Meanwhile the laser can reduce the weight by 20% and meet the more demanding vibration mechanics requirements of Chang'e-5.


At 5:42 PM on December 6, the Chang'e-5 lander successfully docked with the orbiter and the returner, and the sample container was safely transferred to the returner at 6:12 PM. This is China's first lunar orbital rendezvous and docking. The lidar developed by the Institute of Optoelectronics Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOPT) has been successfully completed in the unmanned lunar orbital rendezvous and docking mission.

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The sensor within this lidar, automatically captured the ascender in close and medium distance, realized the rise of laser precision tracking, completed high precision measurement to the relative location and posture between the ascender and the orbiter. And the lidar transmitted all information in real-time to the orbiter controller, helped the orbiter constantly adjust position and posture. Finally the orbiter could rise near the ascender, realize the accurate docking and the successful complete the lunar orbit unmanned docking mission.


Zhuhai Guangku Science and Technology provides a number of aerospace grade core passive components for the two fiber laser in the lander. There are two important technical support for this:

First, with high frequency, narrow pulse and wide pulse laser, to help the lander in hover to form instantaneous high-precision three-dimensional imaging for the lunar surface, providing the basis for choosing precise landing site.

In addition, Guangku product was also used for the first time in the velocity measurement module of the lander. The velocity module works from the lunar landing down stage and measures the lander's speed relative to the moon by detecting the frequency information of the laser echo. The two technologies worked together from far to near to ensure a stable landing for Chang'e-5.

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The Chang'e-5 mission has paved the way for China's next lunar exploration program, and the lunar soil it brings back will continue to increase our understanding of the moon's history and composition. The achievements of the lunar exploration program represent that China is on its way to becoming a space power.


(Please note: the article comes from LaserFairCom. Some of the pictures come from the and Xinhua News)