Pushing through what is set to be a record-breaking year for the Chinese, a new pair of navigation satellites were launched on Wednesday – marking the country’s 25th orbital launch of the year so far. The launch of Beidou-3M13 and Beidou-3M14 took place from the LC3 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province, using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 (Chang Zheng-3B/YZ-1) launch vehicle. Launch time was 14:07 UTC and it took over four hours to complete the mission.
Also designated Beidou-37 and Beidou-38, the MEO satellites are the Medium Earth Orbit component of the third phase of the Chinese Beidou (Compass) satellite navigation system. The satellites are part of a fleet that will expand the system to a global navigation coverage.
The satellites are using a bus that features a phased array antenna for navigation signals and a laser retroreflector, with a launch mass 1,014 kg. Spacecraft dimensions are noted to be 2.25 by 1.0 by 1.22 meters. Usually, the satellites reside in a 21,500 – 21,400 km nominal orbit at 55.5 degrees.
Two new pairs of Beidou-3M satellites are scheduled to launch before year’s end. Beidou-3M15 and M16 will be launched in October, and Beidou-3M17 and Beidou-3M18 will be launched in November. In December is expected the launch of a geosynchronous navigation satellite.
The Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has been independently constructed, developed and operated by China taking into account the needs of the country’s national security, economic and social development. As a space infrastructure of national significance, BDS provides all-time, all-weather and high-accuracy positioning, navigation and timing services to global users.
Along with the development of the BDS service capability, related products have been widely applied in communication, marine fishery, hydrological monitoring, weather forecasting, surveying, mapping and geographic information, forest fire prevention, time synchronization for communication systems, power dispatching, disaster mitigation and relief, emergency search and rescue, and other fields.
Navigation satellite systems are public resources shared by the whole globe, and multi-system compatibility and interoperability have become a trend. China applies the principle that “BDS is developed by China, and dedicated to the world”, serving the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt, and actively pushing forward international cooperation related to BDS.
As BDS joins hands with other navigation satellite systems, China will work with all other countries, regions and international organizations to promote global satellite navigation development and make BDS further serve the world and benefit mankind – as the Chinese like to portray.
China started to explore a path to develop a navigation satellite system suitable for its national conditions, and gradually formulated a three-step development strategy: completing the construction of BDS-1 and provide services to the whole country by the end of 2000; completing the construction of BDS-2 and provide services to the Asia-Pacific region by the end of 2012; and to complete the construction of BDS-3 and provide services worldwide around 2020 with a constellation of 27 MEOs plus five GEOs and the existing three IGSOs satellites of the regional system. CNSS would provide global navigation services, similarly to the GPS, GLONASS or Galileo systems.
The Beidou Phase III system includes the migration of its civil Beidou 1 or B1 signal from 1561.098 MHz to a frequency centered at 1575.42 MHz – the same as the GPS L1 and Galileo E1 civil signals – and its transformation from a quadrature phase shift keying (QPSK) modulation to a multiplexed binary offset carrier (MBOC) modulation similar to the future GPS L1C and Galileo’s E1.
The Phase II B1 open service signal uses QPSK modulation with 4.092 megahertz bandwidth centered at 1561.098 MHz.
The current Beidou constellation spacecraft are transmitting open and authorized signals at B2 (1207.14 MHz) and an authorized service at B3 (1268.52 MHz).
Real-time, stand-alone Beidou horizontal positioning accuracy was classed as better than six meters (95 percent) and with a vertical accuracy better than 10 meters (95 percent).
CNSS supports two different kinds of general services: RDSS and RNSS. In the Radio Determination Satellite Service (RDSS), the user position is computed by a ground station using the round trip time of signals exchanged via GEO satellite. The RDSS long-term feature further includes short message communication (guaranteeing backward compatibility with Beidou-1), large volume message communication, information connection, and extended coverage.
The Radio Navigation Satellite Service (RNSS) is very similar to that provided by GPS and Galileo and is designed to achieve similar performances.
The system will be dual-use, based on a civilian service that will provide an accuracy of 10 meters in the user position, 0.2 m/s on the user velocity and 50 nanoseconds in time accuracy; and the military and authorized user’s service, providing higher accuracies.
China upholds the principles of “independence, openness, compatibility and gradualness” in the BDS construction and development. Independence refers to uphold independent construction, development and operation of BDS, and to acquire the capability to independently provide satellite navigation services to global users.
Openness refers to provide open satellite navigation services free of charge and to encourage all-scale, multi-level and high-quality international cooperation and exchange. Compatibility refers to enhance the BDS compatibility and interoperability with other navigation satellite systems and to encourage international collaborations and exchanges, so as to provide better services to users.
Gradualness refers to carry out the BDS development in a phased approach, to enhance the BDS service performance, and to boost the development of satellite navigation industries in a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable manner.
This was the eighth mission of the Long March-3B/YZ-1 (Chang Zheng-3B/YZ-1) version of the Long March-3B.
The launcher was developed from the Chang Zheng-3A. The CZ-3B features enlarged launch propellant tanks, improved computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter diameter payload fairing and the addition of four strap-on boosters on the core stage that provide additional help during the first phase of the launch.
The rocket is capable of launching an 11,200 kg satellite to a low Earth orbit or a 5,100 kg cargo to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The CZ-3B/G2 (Enhanced Version) launch vehicle was developed from the CZ-3B, increasing the GTO capacity up to 5,500kg. The CZ-3B/E has nearly the same configurations with CZ-3B bar its enlarged core stage and boosters.
On May 14, 2007, the first flight of CZ-3B/G2 was performed successfully, accurately sending the NigcomSat-1 into pre-determined orbit. With the GTO launch capability of 5,500kg, CZ-3B/G2 is dedicated for launching heavy GEO communications satellite.
The rocket structure also combines all sub-systems together and is composed of four strap-on boosters, a first stage, a second stage, a third stage and payload fairing.
The first two stages, as well as the four strap-on boosters, use hypergolic (N2O4/UDMH) propellant while the third stage uses cryogenic (LOX/LH2) propellant. The total length of the CZ-3B is 54.838 meters, with a diameter of 3.35 meters on the core stage and 3.00 meters on the third stage.
On the first stage, the CZ-3B uses a YF-21C engine with a 2,961.6 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.5 Ns/kg. The first stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 23.272 m.
Each strap-on booster is equipped with a YF-25 engine with a 740.4 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.2 Ns/kg. The strap-on booster diameter is 2.25 m and the strap-on booster length is 15.326 m.
The second stage is equipped with a YF-24E (main engine – 742 kN / 2,922.57 Ns/kg; four vernier engines – 47.1 kN / 2,910.5 Ns/kg each). The second stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 12.920 m.
The third stage is equipped with a YF-75 engine developing 167.17 kN and with a specific impulse of 4,295 Ns/kg. The fairing diameter of the CZ-3B is 4.00 meters and has a length of 9.56 meters.
The Yuanzheng-1 (“Expedition-1″) uses a small thrust 6.5 kN engine burning UDMH/N2O4 with a specific impulse at 3,092 m/s. The upper stage should be able to conduct two burns, having a 6.5 hour lifetime and is capable of achieving a variety of orbits.
It will be adapted for use on the CZ-3A/B/C series mainly for direct MEO/GEO insertion missions (mostly for the navigation satellites of the Beidou GNSS).
The Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.
Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the center has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site.
The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.
Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.
The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Chang Zheng-3 was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.