China has successfully launched two BeiDou-3 satellites to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along Belt and Road initiative (BRI) by the end of 2018.
The two satellites were designated as BeiDou-3 M7 and BeiDou-3 M8 (26th and 27th satellites) in BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).
These two satellites were launched on board of Long March-3B carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwestern province of Sichuan. This was first launch of the BeiDou satellites in 2018. China is plannig to send 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space in 2018.
These two satellites were based on newly-developed dedicated satellite bus and weigh about 1 metric ton each. Both spacecraft had two deployable solar arrays and are designed to be operational for about 12 years. These newly-launched satellites represent third phase of BDS system (BeiDou-3). The first BeiDou-3 satellite was launched in March of 2015
BeiDou is 2nd generation of Chinese homegrown navigational system seen as rival to US’s Global Positioning System (GPS). It was named after Chinese term for plough or Big Dipper constellation.
It comprises constellation of total 35 satellites in two separate satellite constellations viz. limited test system (operational since 2000) and full-scale global navigation system which is currently under construction. The first BeiDou satellite was sent into space in 2000.
It became operational in December 2011, with constellation of 10 satellites providing services in China only. In December 2012, it began offering services to customers in Asia-Pacific region. On its completion in 2020, it will provide services to global customers.
Currently it used for civilian services in field of navigation, messaging, transportation and weather forecasting sectors. It also has military applications.