China launches 2 Beidou-3M navigation satellites

Launch of the BeiDou-3M satellites. Image courtesy of CASC.

Today, at 7:18 a.m. Beijing time (GMT+8), China successfully launched two satellites that will be part of its BeiDou-3 navigation constellation. The launch took place using a Long March 3B launch vehicle from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. The success of the launch has been confirmed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

The two satellites are the first navigation satellites to be launched by China this year, and form the third and fourth satellites of the BeiDou-3M constellation. Like the first two BeiDou-3M satellites launched in November 2017, both are Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites that will form the third phase of China’s navigation satellite plans.

They make up the 26th and 27th satellites of the overall BeiDou system, which currently comprises two separate constellations, the BeiDou-2 system also known as Compass, and the BeiDou-3 constellation.

According to CASC, China will launch a total of 18 satellites for its BeiDou03 constellation, which are aimed at global coverage.

China aims to conduct 35 launches this year, with 14 using the Long March 3B family of launch vehicles, accounting for approximately 40% of the launches. Introduced in 1996, the Long March 3B is a three-stage orbital vehicle with a payload capacity of 11,500 kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 5,100 kg to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

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