I've just received an email from my friend Wang Chun, who says that after a train journey lasting two nights, he finally arrived in Xichang, home to China's launch complex, this morning. He said there is light rain falling, but that the official plans are to perform the launch of Chang'e 1 as expected tomorrow.
He sent some information that he sent about tomorrow's timeline. All times are CST, which is UTC plus 8 hours, or PDT plus 15 hours.
- The rocket will be filled with cold fuel at 11:00.
- The launch window is 35 min long.
- The first signal will come back to the Earth 400 seconds after launch.
- The spent launch vehicle (a Long March 3A rocket tat cost 200 million yuan, or about $27 million at today's exchange rate) will return to and impact with the Earth in Guizhou province.
- The spacecraft will be placed into an Earth-Moon transfer orbit on October 31.
He also said that, the government-run China Central Television will broadcast the launch live. China's space program is young so I don't know if this is common procedure for them; but it's a great way to involve the public in the excitement of the launch! I hope it goes well, and that millions of Chinese are watching. The launch will be tracked by two ships, Yuanwang 3 and the newly commissioned Yuanwang 5.
The launch is supposed to happen tomorrow at 3:00 a.m. my time, and since I have been kept awake three nights in a row by howling Santa Ana winds (the same hot, dry winds that are whipping wildfires out of control across southern California), I do not plan to wake up for it. I'll tune in several hours later, hoping to see good news from China!