China completed its Beidou satellite navigation system with a launch last week, fully standing up a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo constellation, and Russia’s GLONASS system and strengthening the nation as a space power.
While the United States was focused last week on its first domestic flight of astronauts to orbit in 9 years, China was busy with a pair of launches that placed four satellites into space.
A Long March 11 booster launched the Xinjishu Shiyan-G and Xinjishu Shiyan-H technology test satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Friday, May 29.
The Xinjishu Shiyan-G satellite was developed by the Shanghai Institute of Microsatellite Innovation, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The National University of Defence Technology developed the Xinjishu Shiyan-H satellite.
The satellites will test new Earth observation technology and inter-satellite communications.
On Sunday, a Long March 2D rocket launched the Gaofen-9 (02) remote sensing satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia.
The microwave spacecraft is the latest in a series of high-definition Earth observation satellites. Gaofen-9 (02) will be used for a variety of civilian purposes ranging from land use and urban planning to crop estimation and disaster prevention.
The Long March 2D booster carried the HEAD-4 technology and communications satellite as a secondary payload. The spacecraft is owned by HEAD Aerospace Tech Co. Ltd. of Beijing.
A Chinese Long March 3B booster failed after launch on Thursday, destroying an Indonesian communications satellite and providing a spectacular nighttime light show for residents of Guam as debris burned up in the atmosphere.
China’s Xinhua news agency said the Long March 3B’s third stage malfunctioned after launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
The booster was carrying the Palapa-N1 geosynchronous communications satellite. The spacecraft was owned by Palapa Satelit Nusantara Sejahtera, which is a joint venture of Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and Indosat Ooredoo.
Palapa-N1, also known as Nusantara Dua, would have provided C-band and Ku-band broadcast and broadband services for Indonesia and neighboring regions. The China Academy of Space Technology built the spacecraft based on its DFH-4 platform.
Debris from the launch reentered the atmosphere near Guam. Officials said the debris posed no threat to the U.S. territory.
It was China’s second launch failure in less than a month. On March 16, the maiden launch of the Long March 7A rocket went awry, destroying a classified government satellite. Chinese officials have not announced the cause of the failure.
Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.
What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.
I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.
Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th) Launch Site: Xichang, China
China successfully launched two satellites for the Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Monday afternoon Beijing time, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The launch means all the 24 medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites of the BDS-3 have been successfully sent into space, and the deployment of the core BDS-3 constellation system has been completed, according to Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BDS.
“BDS now has the full capacity for global service. It will be able to provide excellent navigation service to global users,” Yang said.
China started to build the BDS-3 system in 2009. The system, independently constructed and operated by China, consists of three geostationary orbit satellites, three inclined geosynchronous orbit satellites and 24 MEO satellites.
A Long March-3A booster launched the two satellites into orbit.