China successfully launched into space the final satellite of its Beidou navigation system on Tuesday. It’s Beijing’s answer to the US government-owned GPS and will help the country reduce its reliance on American technology.
The satellite launch took place shortly before 10AM local time from the Xichang Satellite Center in the country’s southwestern Sichuan province, from where it was broadcasted live. It was deemed a success about 20 minutes after launch.
China has been working on its own satellite navigation network for more than two decades. It began constructing Beidou, which means Big Dipper, in the mid 1990s. This is the third iteration of Beidou, which promises to now offer global navigation coverage and communication services after the first and second iterations provided coverage in China and the Asia Pacific region respectively. It also offers an another option to the US’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.
Most Chinese p won’t have to lift a finger to take advantage of the new network. About 70 percent of Chinese smartphones already support Beidou, according to Nikkei.
China’s navigation network consists of 55 satellites total, including 30 satellites that are part of the third version of Beidou. Last year, China overtook the US in terms of number satellites in orbit for the GPS-like system, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
The launch was supposed to take place last week but was delayed due to unspecified technical issues, according to Beidou’s website.
According to another state media outlet, Xinhua, countries including Thailand, Kuwait, and Uganda are using the Beidou system for various uses.