China on Tuesday launched the final satellite in its homegrown geolocation system designed to rival the US GPS network, marking a major step in its race for market share in the lucrative sector. With this announcement, the Chinese rival to American GPS is complete, leading it now to a race for market share.
Video: China launches last BeiDou-3 navigation system satellite
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) June 23, 2020
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV of the launch in southwestern Sichuan province showed the rocket blast off against a backdrop of lush mountains as a small group of onlookers filmed on their phones.
Chinese rival to GPS complete after much delays
The launch of the Beidou-3 GEO3 satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center was originally scheduled for last Tuesday but was delayed over unspecified “technical issues,” China’s space agency said.
Read more: In space, the US sees a rival in China
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.
China on the road to independence from US and European systems
“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.
Now 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.
The system works on a network of about 30 satellites.
Around 120 countries are using Beidou’s services for port traffic monitoring, to guide rescue operations during disasters and other services, according to Chinese state media.
China successfully launches two BeiDou 3 satellites to monitor BRI, CPEC https://t.co/2qBAIGHinG
— Times of lsIamabad (@TimesofIslambad) January 12, 2018
Beijing is counting on its trillion-dollar Belt and Road global infrastructure project to convince other participating countries to use its technology as it attempts to grab market share from GPS — although some experts have cast doubt on its ability to do so.
McDowell told AFP he did not think Beidou would be able to “supplant GPS in the next 10 or even 20 years”.
What exactly is the Beidou-3 Navigation System?
BeiDou-3 is a new global navigation satellite system being developed by China National Space Administration (CNSA) as an alternative to the global positioning system (GPS) of the US, Russia’s GLONASS, and Europe’s Galileo.
The BeiDou-3 is part of the BeiDou navigation satellite system (BDS), which aims to develop space infrastructure for round-the-clock, all-weather, accurate navigational, positioning, and timing services.
Begun in 1994, BDS-1 was completed in 2000 to provide services to China. In 02012, BDS-2 was finished, and has provided navigation service to the Asia-Pacific region. Once the final satellite achieves orbit and is checked out successfully, BDS-3 will provide navigation services worldwide.
The BDS system also has a range of applications such as communications, hydrological monitoring, surveying, mapping, geological survey, forest-fire prevention, time synchronisation for communication systems, power dispatch, search-and-rescue (SAR), and disaster mitigation and relief operations.
CNSA launched 18 BeiDou-3 satellites in 2018, while the latest satellite of the constellation lifted-off in June 2019. The BDS-3 is now fully operational in 2020, upon the launch of 35 satellites.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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