BNS China: GPS Satellite-2 Into Orbit
China has fired into Orbit at midnight its second satellite in a program to build an alternative to global positioning system. The launch of the COMPASS satellite took place just after midnight from the Xichnag Satellite Launching Center in southwest Sichuan province, as described on China National Space Administration website.
China plans to launched a 35-satellite array which will server as its own GPS system by the year 2015. The system is expected to rival the US-developed GPS, the European Union's Galileo Positioning System and Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). The Chinese system is called Beidou Navigation System (BNS) and will be fully operational in 2015.
The first non-experimental satellite was launched two years ago, in April, 2007, with four experimental COMPASS satellites launched earlier this decade. The experimental satellites are dubbed Beidou-1A, -1B, -1C and 1D, with the non-experimental satellites being Beidou-2A and -2G for the April 2007 satellite and April 2009 satellite, respectively. Only the experimental -1B, -1C and -1D satellites remain in operation in orbit, though -1A still exists in its geostationary orbit. Over the next 6 years, China plans to launch the remaining 28 satellites.
Each COMPASS satellite weighs around 2,200 pounds. The final system will reportedly have 30 medium Earth orbit satellites, with five geostationary satellites, though sources vary on the accuracy of this information.
BNS is named after the Big Dipper star constellation, with the word Beidou specifically referring to the seven brightest stars of The Great Bear constellation.