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beidou satellite launch

China launches final satellite for Beidou, its rival system to GPS

Image credit: reuters

China has launched the final satellite for its Beidou constellation which will provide an alternative to the US-developed GPS system.

It is the last of 35 satellites in total that have been launched for the navigation system which will supposedly be able to reach millimetre accuracy compared to around 5 metres for GPS.

The launch took place near Xichang in the mountains of southwestern China and the satellite was deployed about half an hour later when it extended its solar panels to provide energy.

The mission was originally set for 16 June, but was cancelled at the last minute due to technical problems detected during pre-launch tests of the Long March-3B carrier rocket.

China normally waits until successful deployment before announcing a satellite launch, but this time it announced it in advance and broadcast it live on television.

This is the third iteration (BDS-3) of the Beidou system, which China has been iterating upon since the launch of its first-generation system in 2000 which only had three satellites and limited local coverage.

The BDS-3 system’s satellites have “higher bandwidth, enabling enhanced communication capability and carrying more accurate ... atomic clocks to improve the precision of timing and navigation services” when compared to their BDS-2 predecessors, according to a report by China’s Global Times.

The project was estimated to cost around $10bn and is concurrent with other domestic satellite navigation systems such as the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System and Europe’s Galileo.

The UK even considered making its own satellite system after being blocked from Galileo following its departure from the EU, but this plan may be scrapped as a waste of taxpayer funds given the wide availability of other systems.

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