China launches again – Long March 3-A with Compass

by Chris Bergin

A Chinese Long March 3-A launch vehicle has launched a communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest Sichuan Province today at 16:28pm UK time.

The “Beidou” (Compass) satellite is part of a planned GPS constellation of 35 satellites, including five geo-stationary (GEO) Earth orbit satellites and 30 medium Earth orbit satellites. Another launch is expected in a few weeks.



The launch comes soon after the China’s SinoSat-2 was successfully launched into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) on a Chinese Long March 3B launch vehicle on October 28, but suffered a fatal technical problem on orbit. It will be replaced with SinoSat-3 in May.

China classes the Compass system as a civilian project, aiding survey, telecommunications, transportation, meteorology, forest fire prevention, disaster forecast and public security,” according to information gained by the Chinese media site Xinhua.

China also claimed they would be willing to cooperate with other nations who have their own GPS systems, should they wish to include Compass into their own capabilities.

The Compass system will provide users with positioning accuracy within 10 meters, velocity accuracy with 0.2 meter per second and timing accuracy within 50 nanoseconds. It was launched on a Long March 3-A due to its supreme GEO launch capability.
China are continuing to progress towards establishing themselves as a major space flight nation, as they plan to compete against the US on exploration.

“The manned space program is progressing well,” said Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration. “We will enable astronauts to engage in space walks and conduct spacecraft rendezvous and docking which are anticipated in 2008.”
“I know that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States has budgeted nearly 17 billion U.S. dollars for civilian space projects for 2007. Ours is far less than one-tenth of that.”

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