China successfully launched the BeiDou-3I3 navigation satellite late yesterday. The satellite is the eighteenth and final satellite of the country’s next-generation BDS-3 navigation system.
Thye 5,400-kilogram BeiDou-3I3 satellite was launched aboard a Long March 3B from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on November 4 at 17:43 UTC. Following a successful launch, the navigation satellite was deployed from the rocket’s upper stage into an inclined geosynchronous orbit.
BeiDou-3I3 is the final addition to the now 18-strong BDS-3 constellation. The next-generation navigation system will replace the BDS-2 network which had been offering services to customers in the Asia Pacific region since December 2011. The new network will provide 24-7 all-weather high-accuracy positioning, navigation and timing services to users around the world.
An independent navigation network has been a strategic priority for China since the commission of the first BeiDou network in the late 1990s.
Currently, much of the world relies on the United States GPS network, which gives the country a considerable strategic advantage. This has prompted China, Russia (GLONASS) and Europe (Galileo) to build out their own networks in an attempt to negate this advantage somewhat.
With China’s now global navigation coverage, it is not unlikely that many of their trading partners across the world and in particular Africa will begin utilizing the new network. This could in turn award China with additional leverage as it looks to secure mineral and resource rights throughout the African continent.