On 12 February 2018, at 1.03 p.m. Beijing time (GMT +8), China launched a pair of BeiDou-3 satellites that will add to China’s BeiDou-3 navigation constellation. These will be China’s 28th and 29th BeiDou-3 satellites.
The launch took place from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, using a Long March 3B launch vehicle. The success of the launch was confirmed by the country’s launch services contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), approximately 3 hours after liftoff.
This pair of BeiDou-3 satellites, part of the BeiDou-3M series, will join two existing pairs of satellites from the same series, launched on 12 January 2018 and 5 November 2017. Each of these three launches has seen a pair of “twin” satellites, lofted into Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) on a single launcher, with each satellite reportedly having a mass of about 1,000 kg. Yesterday’s launch will make up the 5th and 6th satellites of this constellation.
CASC has reported that the Long March 3B is expected to conduct 10 BeiDou launches in 2018, with 8 of these carrying 2 satellites each. With these launches, BeiDou, which is China’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), will be able to offer full regional coverage by the end of 2018. China hopes to be able to complete its BeiDou constellation to offer global coverage by 2020.
CASC has dubbed 2018 China’s “Super Year for Space”; so far in 2018, China has already conducted 7 successful launches. Launches will be resumed after China’s New Year celebrations.