Photo: The Beidou-3 satellites launched by Long March-3B rocket on 19th September 2018
China successfully launched a pair of Beidou navigation and positioning satellites into medium Earth orbits on Wednesday 19th September 2018, marking the country’s 25th launch of a record-setting 2018.
A Long March 3B rocket with a Yuanzheng-1 upper stage lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China at 14:07 UTC.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) declared the mission a success just over four hours later, following direct insertion of the Beidou-3 satellites into their intended medium Earth orbits (MEO).
This mission saw the 37th and 38th satellites of the Beidou system put into orbit, following the launch of the first in 2000.
The completed 35-satellite Beidou system will have 27 satellites in MEO at around 22,000 km altitude, 5 in geostationary orbit and 3 more in inclined geosynchronous orbits at 35,786 km, providing global GNSS coverage with a positioning accuracy of 2.5 metres.
The Beidou navigation system, which takes its name from the Chinese asterism equivalent to the Plough or Big Dipper, is China’s answer to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia’s GLONASS and Europe’s Galileo GNSS constellations.
Beidou provides civilian applications such as navigation for shipping and road traffic, mapping and surveying. It also assists military forces from space, facilitating targeting, positioning and locating, and the synchronising of operations.
By the end of November, 2 further similar launches are expected to place pairs of Beidou-3 (third phase for global coverage) satellites into medium Earth orbits (MEO), with a further satellite to be sent into a geosynchronous orbit.