BEIJING: China has successfully put into orbit the final satellite in its BeiDou-3 navigation system, further advancing the country as a major power in space.
China’s space agency said that the launch of the Beidou-3GEO3 satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center was originally scheduled for the last week but was delayed over unspecified ‘technical issues’.
Completing the satellite network makes China a key player in the billion-dollar geolocation services market, observers said.
Beidou, named after the Chinese term for the plough or “Big Dipper” constellation is intended to rival the US’s Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.
“I think the Beidou-3 system being operational is a big event,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said.
“This is a big investment from China and makes China independent of US and European systems.” China started building its global navigation system in the early 1990s to help cars, fishing boats, and military tankers navigate using mapping data from the country’s own satellites.
The service can be used on millions of mobile phones to find nearby restaurants, petrol stations or cinemas, to guide taxis and missiles and fly unmanned drones.
The coverage provided by Beidou, which has been in commercial use since 2012, was first limited to the Asia-Pacific region, but worldwide service has been available since 2018.
Around 120 countries including Pakistan and Thailand are using Beidou’s services for port traffic monitoring, to guide rescue operations during disasters and other services, according to Chinese state media.
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