BEIJING, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- China's space program experts on Tuesday outlined factors that could delay the launch of the country's first lunar orbiter, which could be as early as Wednesday.
The Long March 3A carrier rocket, which had completed 14 consecutive successful launches, was susceptible to three main factors that could put the launch back: human error at the launch site; unfavorable weather; and mechanical faults.
Experts said the launch would not be feasible in thunderstorms, torrential rain or strong gales.
Though the rocket had undergone many pre-launch tests, it was possible that its construction materials and components could be exposed to problems, said Jin Zhiqiang, deputy commander-in-chief of the rocket system.
Harsh weather could short-circuit electronic components, and severe cold could freeze tubes and valves, which would have to be unfrozen before the rocket could take off.
The moon orbiter's launch could be as early as 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
"The satellite will be launched between Oct. 24 and 26 and our first choice is around 6 p.m. on Oct. 24," a spokesman for the China National Space Administration said Monday.
The lunar probe is expected to enter earth-moon transfer orbit on Oct. 31 and arrive in the moon's orbit on Nov. 5.
The satellite is expected to relay its first picture of the moon in late November and continue scientific surveying for a year.
The orbiter will carry out a series of projects, including acquiring three-dimensional images and analyzing the distribution of elements on the moon's surface.