China puts final satellite in orbit eliminating need for U.S.-run GPS

The completion of the satellite system could increase China's global influence

Last Updated:
June 24, 2020 - 1:01pm

China on Tuesday successfully launched the final satellite for its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, a rival to the U.S. government-run Global Positioning System (GPS).

The launch of the March 3B rocket further advances Beijing as a major power in space and means China no longer relies on the U.S. satellite system.

The event was live-streamed from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China with English translations, and put into place BDS-3 network’s of 30 operational satellites.

“The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has been independently constructed and operated by China with an eye on the needs of the country’s national security and economic and social development,” according to the government site for the system.

China had another space launch earlier in the week in the Gobi Desert, SpaceNews reported. The mission carried an Earth-observation satellite, a small picosatellite and an automatic identification system services satellite.

The BDS-3 system has been used for “transportation, agriculture, forestry and fishery, hydrological monitoring, weather forecasts, communication time unification, power dispatching, disaster relief and mitigation, public security and other fields,” according to XinhuaNet, China’s government-backed media conglomerate.

These launches come amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China over trade and coronavirus concerns.

Experts say the completion of this satellite constellation could have several implications for the U.S.

“The BeiDou network is emblematic of China’s grand ambitions in respect to foreign policy. They’re taking a much more global view,” Christopher Newman, a U.K. professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University, told CNBC. “Imagine if that is extended to technical and GPS-related reliance. It just increases China’s influence throughout.”

Several countries have already adopted the system, including Thailand and Pakistan, according to a report on XinhuaNet.

The BDS system has been in the works since the 1990s; the first satellite was launched in Oct. 2000. The system has gone through several iterations. The final BDS-3 began operating in 2018 and has now been completed.

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