BEIJING -- China's first lunar probing satellite, Chang'e-1, adjusted its operating orbit on Sunday night to avoid a power shortage during an upcoming moon eclipse, Xinhua learned on Tuesday.
The satellite's engine was ignited at 11:50:48 p.m. on Sunday. It lifted Chang'e-1, at an altitude of 200 kilometers above the moon's surface, up to an orbit nearly 2 km higher in more than 60 seconds, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said.
A moon eclipse on February 21 will cut off the sunlight supply for Chang'e-1 for three to four hours. The adjustment, however, will shorten the time period to two hours, ensuring enough solar power for the orbiter, said Zhu Mincai, BACC director.
Launched via a Long March rocket on October 24 from southwest China, Chang'e-1 is powered mainly by solar power panels. Its batteries can provide electricity only for a short period.
The eclipse will coincide with this year's traditional Chinese Lantern Festival when the moon and the orbiter will be wholly shadowed by the Earth, Zhu said.
Only a few facilities will be temporarily switched off during the eclipse. This won't strongly affect the satellite's work in general, said BACC scientist Liu Congjun.
"We made the adjustment more than 20 days ahead of the eclipse so as to save fuel and avoid negative effects by too large orbital changes on scientific exploration," said Tang Geshi, a BACC official in charge of orbital control.
The satellite will perform an orbital adjustment again when another eclipse occurs in August, Liu said.