China launches more BeiDou-3 satellites with search and rescue capabilities

Image courtesy of CASC.

At 10:07 p.m. Beijing time (UTC+8) on September 19, China launched another pair of BeiDou-3 navigation satellites using the Long March-3B rocket, from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre – the standard launch vehicle and site for the BeiDou GNSS constellation.

These are the country’s 37th and 38th BeiDou satellites, and the 13th and 14th from the new generation BeiDou-3 series.

This pair of BeiDou-3 satellites, part of the BeiDou-3M series, will join six 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 constellation will comprise 18 satellites serving the Belt and Road countries by the end of this year.

According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the pair of BeiDou MEO satellites carries payloads to provide danger alerts and navigation services at sea, on land, and in the air. The overall BeiDou-3M system, with an improved Short Message Service (SMS) compared to the earlier BeiDou-2 system, is designed for SMS, location report, and emergency search and rescue. In addition, these satellites will also collect data on space weather.

Earlier this year, China’s BeiDou constellation joined the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme, a satellite-aided search and rescue initiative. BeiDou will complement the existing Cospas-Sarsat MEO constellations comprising the US’ GPS, the EU’s Galileo, and Russia’s Glonass.

On 7 September, China launched a new marine observation satellite, the HY-1C, aboard a Long March-2C rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre. HY-1C will be used to measure ocean temperatures, in resource-planning for China’s offshore islands and coastal regions, disaster relief and marine sustainability.

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