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 developing Beidou, which means Big Dipper in Mandarin, in the mid 1990s as China’s military sought to wean off GPS that was run by the US Air Force. It offers another option to the US’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS, the European Union’s Galileo, and India’s NavIC.
This is the third iteration of Beidou, which promises to offer global navigation coverage and communication services after the first and second iterations provided coverage in China and the Asia Pacific region respectively. In fact, most phones made by Chinese companies including Huawei already offer support for Beidou.
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’ satellite navigation system in size, putting into space more satellites than the original GPS system, which it had been working to emulate.