EDITOR’S KEEP IN MIND: Upgraded June 16 after launch delay.
Landing crew at the Xichang launch center in China postponed the launch of a Long March 3B rocket into orbit Tuesday that was to finish the implementation of the Beidou navigation fleet, a job authorized by the Chinese government in 1994 to end reliance on the U.S. military’s GPS network.
The Long March 3B rocket was set to loft China’s last Beidou navigation satellite toward a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.
Liftoff of the liquid-fueled Long March 3B launcher was arranged for a window opening at 0211 GMT Tuesday (10: 11 p.m. EDT Monday), or 10: 11 a.m. Beijing time, according to Chinese government authorities.
But China’s state-run Xinhua news company said a few hours before the planned launch time that the mission was postponed after the Long March 3B rocket “was found having technical problems during pre-launch tests.”
A brand-new launch date was not instantly revealed.
Chinese state media and government agencies had publicized the Long March 3B rocket’s launch ahead of time, a break from the standard practice of not announcing the launch of space objectives before they remove, besides popular airspace and maritime notifications cautioning for pilots and mariners to steer clear of booster drop zones.
Some high-profile Chinese area objectives, such as launches of astronauts and flights of the country’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, have actually been similarly advertised ahead of time.
The final Beidou satellite to complete the Chinese navigation network was constructed by the China Academy of Area Technology. Based on the DFH-3B satellite platform, the spacecraft weighs more than 10,000 pounds, or about 4,600 kgs, filled with propellants for maneuvers in orbit.
China developed the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, or BDS, as an independent variation of the GPS network, providing Chinese armed force and civilian users with a home-grown system in case the U.S. military disrupts GPS signals during a dispute. Like the GPS network, Russia’s Glonass fleet and Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation, the Beidou system is developed for international service.
The Long March 3B rocket launch will finish the implementation of the Beidou program’s third-generation, or BDS-3, satellite network.
It will be the 35 th BDS-3 satellite launched since 2015– consisting of test and recognition satellites– and the 59 th Beidou spacecraft introduced given that 2000.
The Beidou network, named for the Chinese word for the Huge Dipper constellation, includes satellites placed in 3 different types of orbits. The Beidou system requires a minimum of 30 satellites running at any one time for continuous global navigation service.
In December, China launched the last of 24 functional satellites into a medium-altitude orbit more than 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) above Earth, similar to the orbits utilized by GPS, Glonass and Galileo satellites.
But unlike the other global navigation systems, the fully-operational Beidou network includes 6 spacecraft in geosynchronous orbits, with three permanently over the equator and 3 others in likely orbits that swing north and south of the equator throughout each 24- hour orbit.
China introduced 3 satellites into inclined geosynchronous orbits last year, and the last Beidou spacecraft set for launch is the third of 3 to be permanently stationed over the equator.
The first four Beidou satellites broadcast placing and timing signals over China. The 2nd phase of the Beidou system, referred to as BDS-2, was finished in 2012 to provide navigation services over the broader Asia-Pacific area.
As of Monday, China’s Beidou network had 44 functional spacecraft, including BDS-2 and BDS-3 satellites.
In addition to military usages, China states Beidou services are used in transport, farming, fishing, and catastrophe relief. More than 70 percent of smartphones in China are equipped to get Beidou signals, and over half of countries worldwide are using Beidou services, according to the state-run Xinhua news company.
The last Beidou satellite arranged for launch is expected to get in functional service in a couple of months, as soon as it has actually steered from the Long March 3B rocket’s elliptical insertion orbit into a circular geostationary orbit above the equator.
” After the worldwide system is completed this year, the BDS can offer satisfying services to every corner of the world,” stated Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the Beidou system, according to Xinhua.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1