China has successfully launched its final satellite into the Beidou navigation system to challenge the US GPS system, taking another step towards becoming a superpower.
The $10 billion Chinese navigation system is made up of 35 satellites and has been in the works for decades. It will provide global navigation coverage to challenge the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).
The launch was initially planned for last week but got delayed due to unspecified technical difficulties. It took place on-board a Long March-3 rocket that was launched at the Xinchang base on Tuesday, in the mountains of southwest China. An hour after the satellite was deployed into orbit, it extended its solar panels to generate energy.
The third version of Beidou’s Sattelite Navigation system promises global coverage for timing and navigation and will be a Chinese alternative to Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo systems, as well as America’s GPS.
The system’s chief designer Yang Changfeng says that the project has been a complete success and:
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
China’s future plans include a fully functioning space station and a possible crewed flight to the moon. There are also plans to launch an orbiter and a rover to mars and this would make China the only country besides the US to land on the red planet.