China on Friday successfully launched two satellites with a single rocket to strengthen its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), which will serve countries along the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative by the end of this year.
The BRI, previously known as ‘One Belt, One Road’, seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of the ancient Silk Road trading routes.
Named after the Chinese term for Big Dipper, the BeiDou system started providing independent services over China in 2000. It is being projected by Beijing as a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS).
A report in the state-run Xinhua news agency said the Chinese navigation system will serve countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the end of 2018.
By around 2020, when the BDS goes global, it is expected to have more than 30 satellites.
The Long March-3B rocket, carrying the two satellites, on Monday lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province at 1:56 am, the Xinhua report said.
The two satellites are coded as the 30th and 31st members in the BDS. They entered orbit more than three hours after the launch and will work together with six previously launched BeiDou-3 satellites once they pass a series of tests.
The satellites and the rocket for the launch were developed by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, respectively.