On 25 August, at 7:52 am Beijing time (UTC+8), China launched a pair of BeiDou-3 satellites that will add to China’s GNSS constellation. These will be the country’s 35th and 36th BeiDou satellites, and the 11th and 12th from the new generation BeiDou-3 series.
The launch took place from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, using a Long March 3B launch vehicle, which China uses for all its BeiDou-3 satellites.
This pair of BeiDou-3 satellites, part of the BeiDou-3M series, will join five existing pairs of satellites from the same series. Each of these 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. If all goes according to plan, the BeiDou-3M constellaion will comprise 18 satellites serving the Belt and Road countries by the end of this year.
The satellites were developed by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which was officially inaugurated last year.
According to Li Guotong, Chief Designer of the BeiDou-3 system, each satellite is equipped with a laser intersatellite link and a global Short Messaging Service (SMS) payload.
Said Li, “The laser intersatellite link enables high precision, millimeter-scale measurement, and an intersatellite communication speed of 1 Gbps. Also, each satellite is equipped with a global SMS payload for global search and rescue operations.”
In a separate announcement, China’s space agency, the China National Space Administration, reported the sale of 40 million BeiDou navigation chips as of September 2017, and that more than 4 million vehicles are now BeiDou-compatible. In addition, according to CAS’ Yang Yuanxi, BeiDou application products have been exported to more than 30 countries within China’s Belt and Road Initiative.