Basic constellation of the BeiDou-3 satellites completed, marking ‘a milestone’ 

By Deng Xiaoci in Xichang and Zhang Han in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/19 20:33:39

BDS to provide navigation services to BRI countries from next month


Carrying a pair of BDS-3 navigation satellites, a Long March-3B launch vehicle takes off early Monday morning from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province. Photo: VCG


China successfully launched twin BeiDou-3 navigation satellites early Monday morning, marking a major milestone for the array of positioning satellites known as BDS - the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.

Launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, the satellites are the 42nd and 43rd in the BDS constellation.

The twin Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites entered their designated orbit about three hours after their launch.

"The basic BDS-3 constellation has been completed, marking a milestone for the Chinese BeiDou to truly go global," Yang Changfeng, chief architect of the BDS, said at a press event on Sunday in Xichang.

"BDS will reach worldwide coverage after the Monday launch with an enhanced accuracy of between 2.5 meters and 5 meters, and will provide services that are twice as good as the previous BDS-2 without even being noticed by the users," Yang said.

This year has witnessed China's intense efforts to launch the array of satellites that make up the country's global navigation system.

Since November 5 last year, 19 launches of BDS-3 satellites have been conducted, with the shortest intervals between launches being only 17 days, said Yang.

Such a launch schedule is unprecedented in China's space history, Wang Ping, chief designer of the BDS-3 family of satellites, told the Global Times.

To achieve the goal, Chinese engineers and scientists have been planning and working round the clock since 2015, and the BDS-3 satellites and their components can now be mass produced, Wang noted.

Monday's launch was the 15th of the year from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and two additional launches are expected before the end of the year, Wu Chengde, deputy director of the political department at the launch center, told the Global Times. The previous record number of launches from the center was nine in one year, said Wu.

Carring a pair of BeiDou-3 navigation satellites, a Long March-3B launch vehicle took off at 2:07 am from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Monday. Photo: Courtersy of Xichang Satellite Launch Center/ Liang Keyan

BDS international cooperation

Yang also said that China is planning to launch 11 additional BDS-3 satellites, including six MEO satellites, three Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGO) satellites and two geostationary satellites, over the next two years.

BDS expects to provide world-class services by 2020.

The Chinese homegrown navigation system, which is named after the Chinese term for the Big Dipper, began serving China in 2000 and the Asia-Pacific region in 2012.

More than 6.17 million commercial vehicles, 80,000 buses in 36 cities and 370 public service ships across China have been using BDS, according to data the Ministry of Transport issued on Sunday.

The launch on early Monday morning also attracted global attention. Space news website hailed the BDS as a system that "is dedicated to the world," serving the development of the Belt and Road initiative, and actively pushing forward international cooperation related to BDS.

Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based aerospace expert, told the Global Times on Monday that BDS can serve the maritime communication needs of countries along the routes of the Belt and Road initiative, "providing vessels with shortcut routes free of dangerous weather and sailing conditions."

The system can also serve infrastructure construction analysis such as building tunnels. "With accurate measurements, excavation work from both ends will meet with no difficulty," Pang said.

BDS now covers more than 50 countries and regions with a total population of more than 3 billion, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

A document the China Satellite Navigation Office sent to the Global Times on Sunday states that China and the US signed a joint statement on the compatibility of BDS and US' GPS signals in November 2017.

Seven rounds of meetings have been carried out between officials with BDS and their counterparts with the European Galileo navigation system, and a bilateral working group has been established.

China and Russia will hold a satellite navigation collaboration forum in Shanghai in May 2019. And the second China-Arab States BDS cooperation forum will also be held in Tunis in 2019.

Witnessed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Anatolyevich Medvedev during the China-Russia Prime Minister's Regular Meeting on November 7, satellite navigation authorities from the two countries signed an agreement on peaceful use of BDS and Glonass, which provides a legal and organizational guarantee for the large-scale bilateral cooperation in the satellite navigation field.

Newspaper headline: Basic constellation of the BeiDou-3 satellites completed

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