China delays Beidou constellation competition following Long March 3B scrub

China is preparing to launch the final Beidou satellite, completing its orbital navigation constellation. However, the launch of the Beidou-3GEO3 satellite that was to place from the LC2 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province on Tuesday was delayed a few hours ahead of launch due to “technical issues”. The launch will use the Long March-3B/G2 ‘Chang Zheng-3B/G2 (Y68) rocket.

The Beidou-3GEO (Beidou-3G) satellites are the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit component of the third phase of the Chinese Beidou satellite navigation system. The satellite is part of a fleet to expand the system to global navigation coverage.

The satellite is based on the DFH-3B bus that features a phased array antenna for navigation signals and a laser retroreflector, and also is equipped with an apogee propulsion system for final orbit insertion. The satellite has a launch mass of about 4,600 kg.

The Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has been independently constructed, developed and operated by China taking into account the needs of the country’s national security, economic and social development. As a space infrastructure of national significance, BDS provides all-time, all-weather and high-accuracy positioning, navigation and timing services to global users.

Along with the development of the BDS service capability, related products have been widely applied in communication, marine fishery, hydrological monitoring, weather forecasting, surveying, mapping and geographic information, forest fire-prevention, time synchronization for communication systems, power dispatching, disaster mitigation and relief, emergency search and rescue, and other fields.

Navigation satellite systems are public resources shared by the whole globe, and multi-system compatibility and interoperability have become a trend. China applies the principle that “BDS is developed by China, and dedicated to the world”, serving the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt, and actively pushing forward international cooperation related to BDS.

As BDS joins hands with other navigation satellite systems, China is working with all other countries, regions and international organizations to promote global satellite navigation development and make BDS further serve the world and benefit mankind.

China started to explore a path to develop a navigation satellite system suitable for its national conditions, and gradually formulated a three-step development strategy.

This included completing the construction of BDS-1 and provide services to the whole country by the end of 2000; completing the construction of BDS-2 and provide services to the Asia-Pacific region by the end of 2012; and to complete the construction of BDS-3 and provide services worldwide around 2020 with a constellation of 27 MEOs plus 5 GEOs and the existing 3 IGSOs satellites of the regional system. CNSS would provide global navigation services, similarly to the GPS, GLONASS, or Galileo systems.

The first four Beidou satellites were launched between 2000 and 2007. Based on the CAST developed DFH-3 satellite bus, the satellites were orbited by Long March-3A launch vehicles to geostationary orbits.

The first satellite – Beidou-1A – was launched on October 30, 2000, followed by Beidou-1B on December 20 in the same year. Beidou-1C was launched on May 24, 2003, and Beidou-1D was launched on February 2, 2007. All launches took place from the LC2 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The first four satellites were as an experimental regional navigation system with three operational satellites and one backup satellite.

The Beidou-2 was the next step in the establishment of the Chinese navigation satellite system. The new system used satellites on geostationary orbit for backward compatibility with the previously launched satellites and non-geostationary satellites (satellites in medium Earth orbit and in inclined geosynchronous orbit) to offer the complete coverage of the planet.

The satellites, generically named Beidou-2M and Beidou-2I, were based on the DFH-3 bus and had an operational lifetime of 8 years.

Beidou-2 M1 (or Beidou-1) was launched on April 13, 2007, using a Long March-3A launch vehicle from the LC3 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The first satellite for the geosynchronous orbit of the Beidou-2 – Beidou-2G2 ‘Beidou-2’ – was launch on April 15, 2009, using a Long March-3C from the LC2 Launch Complex. This was followed by two other geosynchronous satellites – Beidou-2G1 ‘Beidou-3’ and Beidou-2G3 ‘Beidou-4’ – launched on January 16 and June 2, 2010, using Long March-3C launch vehicles.

Beidou-5, the first inclined geosynchronous orbit satellite (Beidou-2 I1) was launched on July 31, 2010, using a Long March-3A from Xichang’s LC3 Launch Complex.

In 2010, two other launches of Beidou-2 satellites occurred. On October 31 (Beidou-2G4 ‘Beidou-6’) and December 17 (Beidou-2 I2 ‘Beidou-7’). Beidou-6 was orbited by a Long March-3C from LC2 and Beidou-7 was orbited by a Long March-3A from LC3.

The next three satellites on the series would be directed to inclined geosynchronous orbits and all three were launch by Long March-3A launch vehicles in 2011. Beidou-2 I3 ‘Beidou-8’ was launched on April 9 (from the LC3 launch complex), Beidou-2 I4 ‘Beidou-9’ was launched on July 26 (from LC2) and Beidou-2 I5 ‘Beidou-10’ was launched on December 1 (from LC3).

Beidou-2G5 ‘Beidou-11’ was launched on February 24, 2012, using a Long March-3C from the LC2 launch complex.

The first dual Beidou launch took place on April 29 when Beidou-2M3 ‘Beidou-12’ and Beidou-2M4 ‘Beidou-13’ were orbited by a Long March-3B/G1 rocket from the LC2 launch complex. The satellites were followed by another pair on September 18 with another Long March-3B/G1 rocket orbiting the Beidou-2M5 ‘Beidou-15’ and Beidou-2M6 ‘Beidou-14’ satellites.

Beidou-2G6 ‘Beidou-16’ was launched on October 25, 2012, using a Long March-3C from the LC2 launch complex.

There were no Beidou launches in 2013 and 2014, and the next satellite on the series would be launched on March 30, 2015. Beidou-3 I1-S (Beidou-17) was the first third-generation validation satellite. It was launched from the LC2 Launch Complex using a Long March-3C/YZ-1 launch vehicle.

The next launches would also see the orbiting of validation satellites for the next phase of the Beidou navigation system. A Long March-3B/YZ-1 would orbit the Beidou-3 M1-S (Beidou-18) and Beidou-3 M2-S (Beidou-19) satellites on July 25 from the LC2 launch complex, followed by Beidou-3 I2-S (Beidou-20) on September 29, orbited by a Long March-3B/G2 from LC3.

The last first third-generation validation satellite – Beidou-3 M3-S (Beidou-21) – was launched on February 1, 2016, using a Long March-3C/YZ-1 from the LC2 Launch Complex.

The third-generation validation satellites opened the door for the next phase of the Chinese navigation system. The third phase of the included three satellites in geosynchronous orbit, three satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit, and twenty-four satellites in medium-altitude orbits, also introducing new signal frequencies.

Two new satellites for the Beidou-2 phase would be launched in 2016: Beidou-2 I6 (Beidou-22) was launched on March 29 using a Long March-3A from the LC2 Launch Complex and Beidou-2G7 (Beidou-23) was launched on June 12 using a Long March-3C/G2 from the LC3 Launch Complex.

The next 2017 only saw one launch of Beidou satellites with a Long March-3B/YZ-1 orbiting the Beidou-3MEO1 (Beidou-24) and Beidou-3MEO2 (Beidou-25) satellites from the LC2 Launch Complex.

2018 would see ten launches of various types of Beidou satellites. The first satellites were launched on January 11 with a Long March-3B/YZ-1 orbiting the Beidou-3MEO7 (Beidou-26) and Beidou-3MEO8 (Beidou-27) satellites from LC2, followed by Beidou-3MEO3 (Beidou-28) and Beidou-3MEO4 (Beidou-29) on February 12 using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 also from LC2. Beidou-3MEO9 (Beidou-30) and Beidou-3MEO10 (Beidou-31) followed on March 29 using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 from LC2.

A Long March-3A launched from LC2 orbited the Beidou-2 I7 (Beidou-32) on July 9 and another pair (Beidou-3MEO5 ‘Beidou-33’ and Beidou-3MEO6 ‘Beidou-34’) followed on July 29 using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 also from LC3.

The next three launches of the series would be dual launches on August 24 (Beidou-3MEO11 ‘Beidou-35’ and Beidou-3MEO12 ‘Beidou-36’), September 19 (Beidou-3MEO13 ‘Beidou-37’ and Beidou-3MEO14 ‘Beidou-38’) and October 15 (Beidou-3MEO15 ‘Beidou-39’ and Beidou-3MEO16 ‘Beidou-40’). The three launches used Long March-3B/YZ-1 launch vehicles.

November 1 saw the launch of Beidou-41 (Beidou-3GEO1 – Beidou-3G1Q) using a Long March-3B/G2 from the LC2 launch complex and the last Beidou launch on 2018 was a dual launch orbiting the Beidou-3MEO17 ‘Beidou-42’ and Beidou-3MEO18 ‘Beidou-43’ using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 from the LC3 launch complex.

The first launch of a Beidou satellite in 2019 took place on April 20 when a Long March-3B/G3 launched from the LC3 Launch Complex orbited the Beidou-3IGSO-1 (Beidou-44) satellite. This was followed by the launch of Beidou-2G8 (Beidou-45) on May 17 using a Long March-3C/G3 from the LC2 Launch Complex and Beidou-3IGSO-2 (Beidou-46) on June 24 using a Long March-3B/G3 launched from the LC3 Launch Complex.

Another dual launch orbiting Beidou-3MEO23 ‘Beidou-47’ and Beidou-3MEO24 ‘Beidou-48’ followed on September 22 using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 from LC2.

The Beidou-3IGSO-3 (Beidou-49) satellite was launched on November 4 using a Long March-3B/G3 from LC2 and another pair of MEO satellites (Beidou-3MEO21 ‘Beidou-50’ and Beidou-3MEO22 ‘Beidou-51’) was launched on November 23 using a Long March-3B/YZ-1 from LC2.

The last Beidou launch in 2019 saw the orbiting of another MEO pair on December 16 with a Long March-3B/YZ-1 launched from LC3 orbiting the Beidou-3MEO19 ‘Beidou-52’ and Beidou-3MEO20 ‘Beidou-53’ satellites.

Beidou-54 (Beidou-3GEO2 – Beidou-3G2Q) was launched using a Long March-3B/G2 from the LC2 launch complex on March 9, 2020.

The Beidou navigation system supports two different kinds of general services: RDSS and RNSS. In the Radio Determination Satellite Service (RDSS), the user position is computed by a ground station using the round trip time of signals exchanged via the GEO satellite. The RDSS long-term feature further includes short message communication (guaranteeing backward compatibility with Beidou-1), large volume message communication, information connection, and extended coverage.

The Radio Navigation Satellite Service (RNSS) is very similar to that provided by GPS and Galileo and is designed to achieve similar performances.

The system is dual-use, based on a civilian service that will provide an accuracy of 10 meters in the user position, 0.2 m/s on the user velocity and 50 nanoseconds in time accuracy; and the military and authorized user’s service, providing higher accuracies.

China upholds the principles of “independence, openness, compatibility and gradualness” in the BDS construction and development. Independence refers to uphold independent construction, development and operation of BDS, and to acquire the capability to independently provide satellite navigation services to global users.

Openness refers to provide open satellite navigation services free of charge and to encourage all-scale, multi-level and high-quality international cooperation and exchange. Compatibility refers to enhance the BDS compatibility and interoperability with other navigation satellite systems and to encourage international collaborations and exchanges, to provide better services to users.

Gradualness refers to carry out the BDS development in a phased approach, to enhance the BDS service performance, and to boost the development of satellite navigation industries in a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable manner.

Developed from the Long March-3A, the Long March-3B features enlarged launch propellant tanks, improved computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter diameter payload fairing and the addition of four strap-on boosters in the core stage that provide additional help during the first phase of the launch.
The rocket is capable of launching an 11,200 kg satellite to a low Earth orbit or a 5,100 kg cargo to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The LM-3B/G3 launch vehicle was developed from the LM-3B, increasing the GTO capacity up to 5,500kg. The LM-3B/G3 has nearly the same configurations with LM-3B bar its enlarged core stage and boosters.

The first launch of the LM-3B was the infamous ‘St. Valentine Day Massacre’ and took place on February 14, 1996, but ended in failure. On this day the first LM-3B launcher failed 2 seconds after liftoff and crashed in a nearby village killing an untold number of people.

The first successful launch took place on August 19th, 1997 when the second LM-3B orbited the Agila-2 ‘Mabuhay’ (24901 1997-042A) communications satellite.

On May 14, 2007, the first flight of LM-3B/G2 was performed successfully, accurately sending the NigcomSat-1 into pre-determined orbit. With the GTO launch capability of 5,500kg, CZ-3B/G2 is dedicated to launching heavy GEO communications satellite.

The rocket structure also combines all sub-systems and is composed of four strap-on boosters, a first stage, a second stage, a third stage and payload fairing.

The first two stages, as well as the four strap-on boosters, use hypergolic (N2O4/UDMH) fuel while the third stage uses cryogenic (LOX/LH2) fuel. The total length of the LM-3B is 54.838 meters, with a diameter of 3.35 meters on the core stage and 3.00 meters on the third stage.

On the first stage, the LM-3B uses a YF-21C engine with a 2,961.6 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.5 Ns/kg. The first stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 23.272 m.
Each strap-on booster is equipped with a YF-25 engine with a 740.4 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.2 Ns/kg. The strap-on booster diameter is 2.25 m and the strap-on booster length is 15.326 m.

The second stage is equipped with a YF-24E (main engine – 742 kN / 2,922.57 Ns/kg; four vernier engines – 47.1 kN / 2,910.5 Ns/kg each). The second stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 12.920 m.

The third stage is equipped with a YF-75 engine developing 167.17 kN and with a specific impulse of 4,295 Ns/kg. The fairing diameter of the LM-3B is 4.00 meters and has a length of 9.56 meters.

The launcher can also use the Yuanzheng-1 (“Expedition-1″) upper stage. It uses a small thrust 6.5 kN engine burning UDMH/N2O4 with a specific impulse at 3,092 m/s. The upper stage should be able to conduct two burns, having a 6.5-hour lifetime and is capable of achieving a variety of orbits.

It is adapted for use on the LM-3A/B/C series mainly for direct MEO/GEO insertion missions (mostly for the navigation satellites of the Beidou GNSS).

The fuelling of the third stage with LOX and LH2 starts at L-7h. The first and second stages, as well as the four strap-on boosters, use hypergolic propellant fuelled earlier. At L-1h 20m is the launch vehicle control system power on and function checkout followed by the telemetry system power on and function checkout.

At L-40m the fairing air-conditioning is turned off and the air-conditioning pipe is dropped-off. Technicians also proceed with the flight program loading and check-up. The gas pipes for the first stage second and are dropped-off. The pre-cooling of the third stage engines takes place at L-20m and L-13m takes place the third stage propellants topping.

Between L-15m and L-10m, the spacecraft umbilical disconnection takes place and at L-3m the telemetry and tracking systems power is switch-over and the third stage propellant fueling pipe is disconnected.

The disconnection of the gas pipe for the third stage is disconnected at L-2m followed by the control system power switch-over at L-1m 30s. Control system, telemetry system and tracking system umbilical disconnection takes place at L-1m as well as the swinging-off of the rods. The TT&C systems start at L-30s and ignition comes at L-0s.

Eleven seconds after lift-off takes place the pitch-over maneuver. Boosters separation occurs at T+2m 21s followed at T+2m 39s by the separation between the first and second stages. Fairing jettison comes at T+3m 55s.

The separation between the second and third stage takes place at T+5m 44s, with the third stage igniting for the first time. This burn ends at T+10m 12s. The vehicle is now on a preliminary orbit until T+20m 56s when the third stage starts its second burn.

This burn will last for 3 minutes and 6 seconds, ending at T+24m 2s. After the third stage shutdown takes place at T+24m 22s an attitude adjustment before spacecraft separation at T+25m 42s.

The Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.
Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the center has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site.

The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.

Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.

The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Long March-3 (Y1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.

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