China has launched a new satellite of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province using a Long March-3C carrier rocket to broadcast positioning and timing signals around the world next year.

Taking place last week, the launch involved the fourth BDS-2 backup satellite and 45th unit of the BDS satellite family.

After being sent to the geostationary earth orbit and in-orbit tests, it will be connected to the BDS to provide users with more reliable services and enhance the stability of the constellation.

According to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), the state-owned contractor that builds most Chinese satellite launchers, the Long March-3C launcher was fitted with a pair of liquid-fuelled strap-on boosters.

The Long March-3C’s second stage and the launcher’s cryogenic third stage placed the BeiDou satellite payload in an elliptical transfer orbit 22,000 miles (35,000km) above Earth.

The spacecraft’s on-board engine will circularise the BeiDou navigation satellite’s orbit in the next few weeks and place it in a geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles over the Equator.

China began constructing its BDS navigation system in the 1990s and it started serving China with its BDS-1 system in 2000 and the Asia-Pacific region with its BDS-2 system in 2012.

China is expected to complete the BDS global network by 2020. The BeiDou project is said to be China’s equivalent to the US military’s global positioning system (GPS).

The BDS-2 and BDS-3 systems will jointly provide services before October 2020. Later, the BDS-3 system will be the main provider.

This was the 304th flight mission for the Long March series of carrier rockets and China’s eighth orbital launch attempt this year, of which seven have been successful. This was also the 27th space launch to successfully reach Earth’s orbit this year.

“The BeiDou project is said to be China’s equivalent to the US military’s global positioning system (GPS).”

Earlier this year, Chinese media reported that eight to ten BeiDou satellites would be launched in 2019 and that the country would have enough satellites in orbit to begin providing worldwide navigation service next year.

The next Chinese space launch will be conducted this week, when a Long March rocket will place a Chinese payload into a polar orbit from the Taiyuan space centre in the north-east.

According to the GNSS and LBS Association of China, the country’s satellite navigation and location services industry achieved a total output value of CNY301.6bn ($43.93bn) in 2018, marking an increase of 18.3% from the previous year.