Lifting off at 0140 GMT, 29 July, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, People’s Republic of China, a Long March-3B/Y1 (CZ-3B/Y1) rocket carried two BEIDOU satellites in to orbit. The two units, BEIDOU-3M5/-3M6, form part of the indigenous Chinese Beidou (Compass) satellite navigation system. These satellites will travel to Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and will help enhance the “global” aspect of the Beidou system.


The Long March-3B/Y1 rocket lifts off from Xichang carrying the two BEIDOU satellites. Courtesy of Xinhua


This was followed two days later at 0300 GMT, 31 July, by a second launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, PRC. This mission saw an Long March-4B (CZ-4B) rocket carry the GAOFEN 11, civil, high-res, Earth Observation satellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Unlike the previous dual-Beidou mission which was known to foreign analysts, this mission for GAOFEN 11 came as more of a surprise to many observers.

The Long March-4B rocket lifts off from Taiyuan carrying the GAOFEN 11 satellite. Courtesy of Xinhua