A pair of BeiDou-3 navigation satellites launched aboard a Long March 3B were deployed into orbit successfully on Wednesday. The launch is China’s 25th of the year as the country pushes to meet their ambitious goal of 40 orbital launches in 2018.
The Long March 3B lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan Province of southwest China at 14:07 UTC (22:07 local time) on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Following a successful launch, the rocket’s Yuanzheng-1 upper stage deployed the two Beidou navigation and positioning satellites into their intended medium Earth orbits.
Wednesday’s launch was China’s third in less than 30 days and the second in support of the country’s BeiDou network over the same time period. The country’s relentless launch cadence in 2018 has surprised many in the industry with many military experts watching worryingly in the west.
In addition to their progress launching Earth-orbiting satellites, China is set to launch the first lunar lander to perform a soft landing on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e 4 mission will carry both a lander and rover. In preparation for the communication challenges landing on the far side of the moon carries, China launched a relay satellite that successfully entered into an orbit around the moon earlier this year.
Although the United States is still potentially decades ahead of China with their work in space, the country seems to be determined to catch them sooner rather than later.