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China launches first "new generation" satellite for BeiDou GPS

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The Long March rocket lifting off with the new-gen satellite for the BeiDou navigation system. A Xinhua photo

BEIJING (PTI): China has successfully launched a new-generation satellite into space for its indigenous BeiDou navigation system, a rival to America's Global Positioning System (GPS).

Launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan on Monday night, the satellite was boosted by a Long March-3C carrier rocket developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

It is the 17th satellite for the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS). The launch marked the beginning of expanding the regional BDS to global coverage.

The latest satellite will be tasked with testing a new type of navigation signalling and inter-satellite links, providing a basis to start building the global network, state-run Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.

An independent aircraft was installed on the carrier rocket, marking the first time China has used such technology in blasting off spacecraft into medium to high orbit.

The independent aircraft, dubbed a "shuttle bus in space", can send one or more spacecraft into different orbits in space.

China launched the first BDS satellite in 2000 in order to create a new GPS system which is already operational in China, Pakistan and some other countries.

BeiDou is the Chinese equivalent of the United States NAVSTAR Global Positioning System and Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System.

The new GPS was aimed at reducing dependence on US GPS, especially for defence related operations.

The BDS began providing positioning, navigation, timing and short message services to civilian users in China and surrounding areas in the Asia-Pacific in December 2012.

The system has been gradually put into use in extended sectors including transportation, weather forecasting, the marine fishing industry, forestry and telecommunications.

The new satellite was developed by the Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites.

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