The Long March-3C carrier rocket carrying the Tianlian I-03 satellite blasts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, July 25, 2012, completing the country’s first data relay satellite network system. The satellite will join its two predecessors to realize global network operation after in-orbit validation and system coordination procedures are carried out.
The first data relay satellite, the Tianlian I-01, was launched in April 2008, and the second was launched in July 2011. The third satellite is expected to improve the network’s coverage in providing measurement and control services for China’s manned spacecraft as well as the planned construction of future space labs and space stations, according to the center. The network will also offer data relay services for the country’s medium- and low-Earth orbits as well as measurement and control support for spacecraft launches.