China launches two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites
China successfully launched two BeiDou-3 satellites named BeiDou-3 M1 and BeiDou-3 M2 into space on board of single carrier rocket Long March-3B from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern province of Sichuan.
These two satellites and carrier rocket were developed by China Academy of Space Technology and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, respectively.
The two newly-launched satellites represent third phase of BeiDou Navigation Satellite System. They will reside in a medium-Earth orbit at an altitude of 21,500 kilometers, inclined 55.5 degrees. These two satellites represent third phase of BDS system (BeiDou-3). It is the final stage of the establishment of a Chinese space-based navigation architecture.
The BeiDou project was formally initiated in 1994. It was named after Chinese term for plough or Big Dipper constellation. It began to serve China in 2000 and the Asia-Pacific region at the end of 2012. This system will provide services for countries involved in Belt and Road Initiative and form complete global satellite navigation system by 2020 by which time China plans to have more than 30 satellites. It will make China third country in world after the US and Russia to operate its own navigation system.