China has launched two BeiDou navigation satellites aboard a Long March 3B. The successful deployment of the two satellites marked the completion of the core constellation of the BDS-3 navigation system.
The Long March 3B carrying the two BDS-3 satellites was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 07:22 UTC. After reaching orbit, both satellites drifted safely away from the rocket’s upper stage into a medium Earth orbit at an altitude of around 20,000 kilometers.
According to the BeiDou Navigation System’s chief engineer, Yang Changfeng, the addition of the two satellites completes the system’s 30-satellite core constellation.
“BDS now has the full capacity for global service,” said Yang. “It will be able to provide excellent navigation service to global users.”
The system’s core constellation is comprised of three inclined geosynchronous satellites, three geostationary satellites, and 24 medium Earth satellites (MEO). The 24 MEO satellites are distributed over three orbital plans with eight satellites in each plane at an altitude of approximately 20,000 kilometers. This design enables worldwide coverage with five to six satellites available for any location at any time.