China continues to deploy its Beidou navigation and positioning satellite constellation, with the first launch of the Long March 3B since its failure on 18th June.
China is pushing ahead with the deployment of its Compass/Beidou navigation and positioning satellites. The latest two, third-generation satellites (BD 3M 1 and 2), each weighing around one tonne, were lofted into orbit on 5th November on a Long March 3B which lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
The launcher was making its return to flight after a five-month hiatus following the launch failure of 18th June, when Chinasat 9A was placed into the wrong orbit due to a third stage malfunction.
This latest launch brings the total number of Beidou satellites currently in orbit to 25, not all of which are thought to be operational. Deployment of the Beidou (“Big Dipper”) constellation started in 2000. Three prototype third-generation satellites (M1S, M2S and M3S) were launched in 2015 and 2016. The definitive constellation, due to comprise 35 satellites, is scheduled for deployment by 2020.