China today successfully launched two BeiDou-3 satellites to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along the Belt and Road initiative of the Communist giant by the end of 2018. The Long March-3B carrier rocket took off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan at 7:18 a.m. (local time). This is the first launch of the BeiDou satellites in 2018, which will see intensive launches throughout the year.
The two satellites are coded the 26th and 27th satellites in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS). The BDS is also being built as rival to US Global Positioning System (GPS). China plans to send 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space in 2018, according to Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BeiDou system. "The intensive launches will pose a great challenge. We must exercise strict control over quality specifications to ensure each of them is a success," Yang said.