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China launches Beidou, a Chinese rival to GPS

Beidou (北斗), which means "Big Dipper," offers location, timing and navigation data for China and neighboring countries, providing an alternative to the US government's global positioning system.

China space laboratory 2011 09 29Enlarge
A Long March 2F rocket carrying the country's first space laboratory module Tiangong-1 lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 29, 2011 in Jiuquan, Gansu province of China. The unmanned Tiangong-1 will stay in orbit for two years and dock with China's Shenzhou-8, -9 and -10 spacecraft for China's eventual goal of establishing a manned space station around 2020. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China has launched Beidou (北斗), a GPS rival intended to decrease Chinese reliance on US satellites. 

Beidou, which means "Big Dipper," began trial operations on Tuesday of its homegrown global positioning system, Reuters reported.

Beidou now offers location, timing and navigation data to China and neighboring countries, providing an alternative to the US government run GPS.

According to Beidou's website, China began developing the the satellite navigation system in 2000, aiming to offer service to China and neighboring countries starting in 2012. It plans to provide global coverage starting in 2020.

Beidou spokesman Ran Chengqi told Reuters that China has launched 10 satellites to support the system, and will launch another six next year.

Reuters reported: 

China has ambitious plans for space, including a space station and a manned trip to the moon. While China has vowed never to militarize space, experts say it is ramping up the military use of space with new satellites.

China's official broadcaster, CCTV, said:

Beidou is independently established and operated by China. It can provide accurate, reliable all-time, all-weather positioning, navigation and timing services.

According to the BBC, Beidou has said it will offer civilian users positioning information accurate to the nearest 32 feet, among other services. The Chinese military will have access to more accurate data.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/111227/chinese-gps-beidou-china-military-satellite-navigation-system