Launch of final satellite for China’s BDS system suspended

The last satellite of China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) scheduled to be launched on Tuesday was suspended due to technical reasons, sources from the Xichang Space Centre said.

No new date has been set for the operation, although it likely to be in the next few days, the sources told Efe news.

Ran Chengqi, director of the China Satellite Navigation Office (CSNO), had announced on Monday that the launch would be carried out at 10.11 a.m. on Tuesday.

Ran added that the BDS-3 satellite would enter the Earth’s orbit 40-50 minutes after the launch and that, until then, the success of the operation could not be confirmed.

The BDS-3 satellite had completed its ground technical tests and the Long March-3B carrier rocket, which will take it into space, was ready at the Xichang centre, the official had said.

However, state-run news agency Xinhua reported later in the day that the Long March-3B carrier rocket was found to be experiencing technical problems during pre-launch tests.

The launch has been postponed and a new launch date has yet to set, the agency added, citing CSNO officials.

The satellite, on entering orbit, was expected to complete the network of 35 3rd-generation devices (BDS-3) of the BeiDou navigation system, which the country launched in 2015 to provide global positioning coverage.

China began building its own satellite navigation system in 2000 to end its dependence on the US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) system, and decided to call it BeiDou, a name that ancient Chinese astronomers gave to the seven brightest stars of the Big Dipper or Plough constellation.

So far, it consists of two separate satellite constellations or groups, BeiDou-1 and BeiDou-2.

BeiDou-1 comprises three satellites that have been offering limited coverage and navigation and positioning services to China and several neighbouring countries since 2000.

BeiDou-2 began operating in December 2011 with 10 satellites in orbit and offers geolocation services to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

With the conclusion of Beidou-3, the system is expected to cover the entire world this year, and provide an alternative to the three existing navigation space projects the US’ GPS, the European Union’s Galileo and Russia’s GLONASS.

According to its promoters, Beidou will have a deviation margin of 10 cm, providing a greater accuracy margin than the 30 cm of the GPS.

China’s estimated investment in the project exceeds $10 billion.