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China eyes launches of more Beidou satellites

(China Daily)

14:35, May 02, 2012

Similar missions in the future will reduce costs and save time

China launched two satellites for its Beidou global navigation and positioning system into space atop a carrier rocket on Monday, and will see similar launches in the future to reduce costs and save time, a rocket scientist said.

The two satellites - the 12th and 13th satellites for the Beidou system, China's version of the US Global Positioning System - were launched aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province early on Monday morning.

It is the first time China has launched two navigation satellites with one rocket, according to a statement on the Beidou network's official website,

At a time when China is planning many space launches, such an efficient way of launching navigation satellites will reduce both time and costs, said Jiang Jie, chief designer of the mission's launch carrier system.

"Two such launches (with two satellites on one rocket) are planned for this year ... Otherwise, four navigation satellites would need four rockets, which would be more time-consuming," she said.

The future trend is a carrier rocket capable of launching four satellites at one time, she added.

Rocket designers made 26 changes over the course of three years to the Long March-3B carrier rocket used for Monday's mission, including a new orbit for launching and a redesigned supporting structure for the satellites, she said.

"The key problem (in launching two satellites on one rocket) is to make sure all separation moves between satellites and rockets are safe and reliable," she said.

Monday's mission involved a more complicated separation process that included seven separation moves, compared to five moves for normal launches, she said.

The two satellites will help improve the accuracy of the Beidou system, which will eventually become a global satellite positioning and navigation system in 2020, with more than 30 orbiters.

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