China on Tuesday launched the final satellite in its Beidou constellation that emulates and may seek to compete with the US Global Positioning System, marking a further step in the country's advance as a major space power. The launch of the satellite onboard a Long March-3 rocket was broadcast live from the satellite launch base of Xichang, deep in the mountains of southwestern China, shortly before 10am, the AP reports. About half an hour later, the satellite was deployed in orbit and extended its solar panels to provide its energy. The third iteration of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System promises to provide global coverage for timing and navigation, offering an alternative to Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo systems, as well as America’s GPS.
The launch of the 55th satellite in the Beidou family shows China's push to provide global coverage has been “entirely successful," the system's chief designer Yang Changfeng told state broadcaster CCTV. "In actual fact, this also signifies that we are moving from being a major nation in the field of space to becoming a true space power," Yang said. The first version of Beidou, meaning "Big Dipper," was decommissioned in 2012. The now-complete current system, known as BDS-3, began providing navigation services in 2018 to countries taking part in China's sprawling "Belt and Road" infrastructure initiative. It largely relies on medium earth orbit satellites, but also operates six geosynchronous orbit satellites such as the one launched Tuesday, Xinhua said.
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