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China launches final satellite in Beidou Navigation System

The launch of the Beidou satellite was announced in advance and it was also broadcasted live on TV and online platforms, with an English translation that was available on the state service provider CCTV.

Jun 24, 2020 13:32 IST
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China has successfully launched the final member in its Beidou satellite constellation on June 23 to complete a new global navigation system. The final Beidou Navigation Satellite (BDS) was launched by a Long March 3B rocket into the orbit.

The launch was from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in South West China. The lift-off took place at 9.43 a.m. Beijing time. The launch was delayed for a week due to the technical problem with a rocket.

The launch of the Beidou satellite was announced in advance and it was also broadcasted live on TV and online platforms, with an English translation that was available on the state service provider CCTV. It is well known that China usually announces the launches until a satellite is successfully deployed into the orbit and then provides video clips of the launch.

Development of Beidou Satellite System:

In the 1990s, China began developing its Beidou Satellite system and launched its first satellite on October 2000 and a lengthy upgrade of the system began in 2009.

The latest new version which is called BDS-3 consists of 30 satellites for the applications that range from high precision positioning to the short message communications. Ahead of this latest launch, the BDS-3 network had 29 operational satellites.

When compared to their BDS-2 predecessors, the BDS-3 system’s satellites have higher bandwidth, which enables enhanced communication capability as well as atomic clocks to improve the precision of navigation services and timings.

As per the reports, the core BDS-3 systems began operations in 2018, but this latest launch will be able to improve the signal strength as well as coverage for the users around the world.

How do the navigational satellites work?

Navigational satellites like in BDS-3 work by transmitting a signal that has been picked up by receivers in GPS enabled devices or smartphones. The signal of the satellite includes information such as the time the message was sent as well as the satellite’s orbital position. Navigation will be able to proceed when a user received accurate information from at least four satellites.

Competition against China’s Beidou System:

The completion of China’s BDS-3 network came as the United States has started working to modernize its own satellite Global Positioning System (GPS). The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the next GPS III satellite launch to June 30, which was earlier planned in April 2020. The upgrade of the US GPS III network, which should be completed by 2023, is an improvement over its GPS II predecessor.

Two other global navigation systems have also been competing with China’s Beidou system. One is Russia that has its Glonass- M navigation satellites that serve Russian military services on air, land, and sea. Another one is Europe’s Galileo System that became operational in 2016 and has been expected to launch its latest satellites in 2020.

China in Space:

The launch of the Beidou navigation satellite was China’s second space mission in a week. On June 17, the country had launched its third Gaofen-9 Earth Observation Satellite into orbit. It was launched from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in Gobi Desert.

The mission had also carried two smaller satellites- the fifth Automated Identification System services satellite for the private company HEAD Aerospace and a tiny picosatellite which is called Pixing-3. It was developed by Zhejiang University.

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