China launches backup Beidou-2 navigation satellite

July 12, 2018  - By
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China sent a Beidou-2 backup navigation satellite into orbit on a Long March-3A rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, in the southwestern Sichuan Province, at 4:58 a.m. on July 10, according to Xinhua.net.

China started to construct the third-generation of Beidou system in 2017, and eight Beidou-3 satellites are now in space. The satellite just launched is a second-generation Beidou-2, and the 32nd of the Beidou navigation system.

“The launch of a backup Beidou-2 satellite will ensure the system’s continuous and stable operation,” said Yang Hui, chief designer of the Beidou-2 series.

Some of the Beidou-2 satellites are nearing the end of their lives and need to be replaced by backup satellites. China launched two backup satellites on March 30 and June 12, 2016.

This new backup is not a simple repeat of previous satellites, but has been upgraded to improve its reliability, Yang said.

It carries redundant rubidium clocks, which is the key to the accuracy of its positioning and timing.

When China began reform and opening-up 40 years ago, its satellites mainly used costly imported rubidium clocks. After the launch of the Beidou program, the United States banned exports of rubidium clocks to China.

Sun Jiadong, chief designer of the Beidou system and an academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering, said China must depend on itself.

China’s first self-developed rubidium clock was tested on a satellite in September 2006. The performance of China’s rubidium clocks was improved on Beidou-2 satellites.

This year will see an intensive launch of Beidou satellites. The system is expected to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along the Belt and Road by late 2018. By around 2020, the Beidou system will go global.

Photo: Xinhua.net

Photo: Xinhua.net

The Beidou-3 satellites can send signals that are compatible with other satellite navigation systems and provide satellite-based augmentation, as well as search and rescue services in accordance with international standards. The positioning accuracy is 2.5 to 5 meters.

The Beidou system will coordinate with other technology, such as remote sensing, the Internet, big data and cloud computing, in future.

In the past five years, the system has helped rescue more than 10,000 fishermen. More than 40,000 fishing vessels and around 4.8 million commercial vehicles in China have been equipped with Beidou, said Beidou spokesperson Ran Chengqi.

China has sold more than 50 million domestically manufactured chips connected to the Beidou navigation and positioning system in the past five years.

By 2020, the value of China’s satellite navigation business is expected to surpass 400 billion yuan (about 58 billion U.S. dollars), of which 240 billion to 320 billion yuan will go to the Beidou system, Ran said.

Photos: Xinhua.net

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Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006, and also is editor of GPS World’s sister website, Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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