China launched a pair of Beidou navigation satellites on 19 November.
The launch, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, took place at 0200 local on 19 November (1800 UTC on 18 November). It was declared successful just over 4 hours later.
Beidou-3 satellites M17 and M18 were launched by a Long March 3B launch vehicle with a Yuanzheng-1 upper stage for direct insertion into medium Earth orbits (MEO) at an altitude of 21,400-21,500 km inclined at 55.5º.
The satellites are the 42nd and 43rd placed in the Beidou constellation since the first in 2000, and represent the 10th BeiDou launch of 2018.
The complete system will comprise 35 operational satellites:
- 27 in MEO
- 5 in geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO)
- 3 in inclined geosynchronous orbit (IGSO)
Full Operational Capability (FOC), providing global coverage with compatibility with GPS and Galileo, is scheduled for early 2020. Claimed positioning accuracy is ‘2.5 metres’.