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China's final Beidou navigation satellite launch postponed for indefinite period

The launch of the final satellite to complete the constellation for China’s Beidou global navigation system has been postponed for an indefinite period, according to a brief report in the state-owned Global Times newspaper published on 16 June.

The 55th Beidou satellite was due to be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre using a Long March 3B rocket and placed in geostationary orbit.

A report from the Xinhua News Agency on 6 April stated that the satellite had arrived at Xichang two days earlier and that the launch would take place in May. However, the launch appears to have been rescheduled to take place on 16 June, which may reflect that there had already been a slight postponement.

Chinese media sources stated that the launch was postponed because of technical problems experienced during the pre-launch test sequence.

The Long March 3B intended to lift the Beidou satellite into orbit is the same type of vehicle as launched on 10 April carrying the Indonesian Palapa communications satellite but a malfunction related to the rocket’s third stage resulted in the loss of the satellite.

On 16 March the Chinese satellite launch programme had suffered another setback with the failure of the first launch of a Long March 7A rocket carrying the Xinjishu Yanzheng-6 satellite, which was probably related to a military satellite programme.

The Long March 7A is a development of the two-stage Long March 7, with the addition of a third stage, which is thought to be derived from the Long March 3B. The failure of the Long March 7A mission appears to have occurred during the operation of the third stage.


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