A new mobile telecommunication satellite Tiantong 1-03 is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan 20, 2021. [Photo by Guo Wenbin/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
China launched a communications satellite early on Wednesday morning — its first space mission this year, according to the country's leading space contractor.
A Long March 3B carrier rocket lifted off at 12:25 am at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province and transported the Tiantong 1-03 satellite into a preset orbit, a statement from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp said. It was the 358th flight of the Long March rocket family.
Tiantong 1-03 is the third satellite in the Tiantong 1 system, which was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology and consists of space-based assets, ground facilities and user terminals.
A simulated image of Tiantong 1-03. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
China's answer to the British-based Inmarsat network, Tiantong 1 is the country's first space-based mobile communications system. Tiantong 1 is also part of its space-based information infrastructure and is helping China break foreign companies' dominance in the field, according to designers.
Tiantong 1-01, the first satellite in the network, was lifted into space in August 2016. Tiantong 1-02 was launched in November. Both of them are working in geosynchronous orbit.
The deployment of Tiantong 1-03 will strongly improve China's capability to maintain its communications system in emerging situations and expand the coverage of the nation's independent mobile communications satellite network to all the Asia-Pacific, said Chen Mingzhang, chief designer of the Tiantong 1 system.