China successfully launches a second Long March rocket within days of the last. The Long March 3B was launched with a pair of BeiDou navigation satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 23:18 GMT on Thursday, Jan. 11.
Once operational, the satellites will become the 26th and 27th in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS). Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BeiDou system told Chinese news agency, Xinhua that China plans to launch no fewer than 18 BeiDou-3 satellites in 2018.
“The intensive launches will pose a great challenge. We must exercise strict control over quality specifications to ensure each of them is a success,” Yang said.
The network of satellites will, once fully operational, be incorporated into the international satellite navigation system. The move will make it compatible with GPS from the United States and Russia’s GLONASS enabling it to compete on a global stage.
Fireballs from the sky
Following the launch, users on Chinese social media sites began sharing the view from Baise in Guangxi where one of the Long March 3B boosters fell back to Earth. The rocket burst into a ball of fire as it landed just a few miles from a residential area. Soon after, residents tracked the burning wreckage down.
Launches in the U.S. avoid similar instances of rockets falling from the Earth and exploding into fireballs by launching from the East Coast in Florida. The site takes advantage of the Earth’s west-to-east rotation to ensure debris from launches falls harmlessly into the ocean.
This is probably why the Chinese need to recover their rockets stages soon….and for reasons other than price:
(video of booster falling in planned drop zone from Chinese social media for today's Long March 3B launch, taken at Baise, Guangxi, China) pic.twitter.com/SLqaDeoPf7
— Cosmic Penguin (@Cosmic_Penguin) January 12, 2018
Up close to the booster from the Long March 3B that landed near buildings in Guangxi province shortly after launch pic.twitter.com/I8QoTovy1I
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 12, 2018
Image Credit: Xinhua News Agency