China Puts Final Satellite into Orbit to Try to Rival GPS Network
China on Tuesday successfully put into orbit its final Beidou satellite, completing a navigation network years in the making and setting the stage to challenge the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).
The idea to develop Beidou, or the Big Dipper in Chinese, took shape in the 1990s as China’s military sought to reduce its reliance on GPS, which is run by the U.S. Air Force.
Coverage was limited to China when the first Beidou-1 satellites were launched in 2000. Now Beidou-related services such as traffic monitoring have been exported to about 120 countries.
As use of mobile devices expanded, China in 2003 tried to join the Galileo satellite navigation project proposed by the European Union but later pulled out to focus on Beidou.
The second generation of Beidou-2 satellites went into operation in 2012, covering the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2015, China began deploying the third generation of Beidou-3 satellites aimed at global coverage. The one launched on Tuesday was the 35th Beidou-3 satellite – with analysts looking at the system’s reliability and how it is rolled out.
Many countries using Beidou services are involved in the Belt and Road initiative spearheaded by China to create a modern-day Silk Road of trade and investment.
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