China, on Tuesday, successfully launched the final satellite in its BeiDou-3 navigation system, further cementing its ability to ditch the use of the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).
State broadcaster CCTV tweeted a video of the launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, in southwestern Sichuan province, showed a Long March-3B carrier rocket in the distance blasting off from a pad with a payload ontop.
China announced that the launch of the last #satellite of #BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has succeeded after the Long March-3B carrier rocket sent it to its designated orbit.https://t.co/uzyBnnNA95 https://t.co/FN5fH2OCmW pic.twitter.com/A5AB0U6iMD— CCTV+ (@CCTV_Plus) June 23, 2020
The launch of the Beidou-3GEO3 satellite is a $10 billion project comprised of 35 satellites and provides a geolocation system designed to rival GPS. China began construction of its global navigation system in the early 1990s for transportation, marine, and military vehicles.
"I think the Beidou-3 system being operational is a big event," Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told AFP.
"This is a big investment from China and makes China independent of US and European systems," McDowell said.
Tens of millions of smartphones to drones to guided farm equipment to vessels to automated cars to even missiles can now use the new location service.
Chinese state media said 120 countries, including many along the Belt and Road Initiative, are using Beidou's location service.
The launch of the final satellite, along with the completion of the geolocation system to revival GPS, comes at a time when tensions between Beijing and Washington are increasing over the pandemic, trade, and Hong Kong.