China Launches New Navigation Satellite
China has developed a family of boosters over the years, including new development of a heavy-lift launcher to fly by 2011. Image
Credit: China National Space Administration

China launched a new member of its budding satellite navigation system Tuesday, the first of up to 10 such spacecraft scheduled to be added by the end of next year.

The Compass G2 satellite blasted off at 1616 GMT (12:16 p.m. EDT) from the Xichang launch base in southwestern China's Sichuan province, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

A Long March 3C booster deployed the navigation satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit with a high point of about 22,250 miles, a low point of about 125 miles and an inclination of 20.5 degrees, according to tracking data.

Compass G2 will soon use its own propulsion system to reach a circular orbit along the equator at an altitude of about 22,300 miles.

The new spacecraft is the second satellite of China's second-generation navigation fleet, which will eventually include more than 30 satellites parked in geostationary and medium-altitude orbits, according to Xinhua.

China launched the first Compass satellite bound for a medium-altitude orbit two years ago. Compass G2 is the first geostationary satellite of the group.

The fleet will beam precise position, altitude and time information to users on the ground.

Up to 10 more Compass satellites could be launched by the end of next year, according to Xinhua.

Officials predict the Compass system will be completed by 2015 to provide global navigation coverage, supplanting the U.S. Global Positioning System in Chinese cars, cell phones and other commercial applications.

Other applications for the system include transportation, meteorology, petroleum prospecting, forest fire monitoring, disaster response, telecommunications and public security, according to Xinhua.

The first-generation Beidou constellation provides only regional coverage over China, according to Xinhua.

Tuesday's flight was China's first space launch of 2009 and the 18th launch worldwide to reach orbit this year.

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