China launches 9th orbiter for global navigation

XICHANG, Sichuan – China successfully launched an orbiter into space at 5:44 am Beijing Time Wednesday, as a part of its indigenous satellite navigation and positioning network known as Beidou, or Compass system, sources with the launch center said.

The orbiter, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province, was boosted by a Long March-3A carrier rocket into a geostationary orbit.

China started to build up its own satellite navigation system to break its dependence on the US Global Positioning System (GPS) in 2000.

Between October 2000 and May 2003, the country set up a regional satellite navigation system after launching three Beidou geostationary satellites.

The system was known as Beidou-1 and is said to have played an important role in the rescue efforts following the devastating earthquake in May 2008 in Wenchuan as it provided the only channel connecting the quake-hit area and the outside.

The Beidou-1 system can not meet growing demand, so a better functional Beidou-2 regional and global navigation system will be set up, Qi Faren, former chief designer for Shenzhou spaceships said in an interview with Xinhua early this year.

From April 2007 to April this year, China launched another eight orbiters to form its Beidou-2 system, which will eventually consist of 35 satellites.

The network will provide satellite navigation, time and short message services for Asia-Pacific regions by 2012 and global services by 2020.

Source: China Daily

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