China today successfully launched the 21st satellite into orbit to support its ambitious global navigation and positioning network that it hopes will end the dominance of US-operated GPS.
The satellite was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan using a Long March-3C carrier rocket, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Today’s launch was the 21st satellite for the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), putting China one step closer to providing an alternative to the US-operated Global Positioning System.
China had launched the 20th satellite for the BDS on September 30.
Named after the Chinese term for the plough or the Big Dipper constellation, the Beidou project was formally launched in 1994, some 20 years after GPS.
The first Beidou satellite was launched in 2000. By 2012, China has established a regional network which provided positioning, navigation, timing and short message services in China and several other Asian countries.
China plans to expand the Beidou services to most of the countries covered in its “Belt and Road” initiative by 2018, and offer global coverage by 2020.
GPS, operated and maintained by the US Air Force, is a constellation of 24 or more satellites flying 20,350 km above the surface of the Earth. Each one circles the planet twice a day in one of six orbits to provide continuous, worldwide coverage.