China successfully launched the latest satellite of the Beidou (Big Dipper) navigation and positioning network on Sunday, according to a statement published on Beidou Net, the project’s official website.
A Long March-3A rocket carrying the satellite took off at 4:47am on Sunday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province. The latest addition is the eighth satellite in the system.
The existing Beidou satellite network can provide 24-hour stable and consistent navigational services to users in most parts of China. It will be put into use after some testing and calibration, Xie Jun, chief engineer of Beidou’s satellite system, told Beidou Net.
Beidou’s predecessor system – a pilot project consisting of four satellites launched between 2000 and 2004 – made its public debute in aiding the disaster relief efforts after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and has since been used in other areas, such as timing, transportation, meteorology and conservation.
Beidou is designed to be faster and more precise than its predecessor – with a spatial resolution of 10 metres, a speed-measurement accuracy of 0.2 metres per second, and a time-service accuracy of 10 nano-seconds, Ran Chengqi, director of the management office of the China Satellite Navigation System, told Xinhua news agency.
China will increase the pace of Beidou’s development in the coming decades. It aims to expand the system to have at least 10 satellites covering most of the Asia-Pacific region by 2012 and another 20 with global coverage by 2020, says Ran.
The project is set to develop China’s own navigation system for civil, commercial and scientific users in wide-ranging areas such as surveying, fishery, transportation, meteorology, telecommunication and hydrology — thereby reducing the country’s increasing reliance GPS.
The number of navigation-system users in China has increased exponentially in recent years, but GPS controls 95% of the market, according to an article published in The Global Times, an English language newspaper in China.