China launched Thursday this year's sixth satellite to join an array of navigation satellites that will form the Beidou-2 positioning network, which is expected to start providing services early next year, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The geostationary satellite, the 16th in the array, was carried into the space by a Long March-3C carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
"With this launch, the Beidou-2 system now covers most of the Asia-Pacific region," Guo Jingjun, director of the Institute of Earth and Space Information with Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.
Beidou-2 is expected to start providing satellite positioning services for most parts of the Asia-Pacific region in early 2013. The network, which will eventually consist of 35 satellites, is expected to provide global services by 2020.
Chinamil.com.cn, the official website of the People's Liberation Army, said that Beidou has become a major supplier of satellite navigation services worldwide. Other systems include the Global Positioning System (GPS) of the US, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) built by Russia and the Galileo system of the European Union.
Beidou-2 is also compatible and can work in conjunction with GPS and GLONASS, said Xinhua.
Beidou-2 will also be used to transmit text messages, a company manager specializing in Beidou's application in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, told the Tianfu Morning Post.
"Beidou can provide both military and civilian services," Guo said, adding that the system will be used to aid transportation, fisheries, telecommunications, homeland resources and environmental monitoring.
The China News Service said Beidou will be used by the police in Beijing to patrol and for communications during the upcoming 18th National Congress of the CPC.
Xinhua estimated over 95 percent of navigation users in China use GPS.
Guo added that Beidou may replace GPS after it is commercially available. "But it is more likely that both will be used. "When it comes to matters of national security, the dependence on GPS can be reduced and even eliminated."
China initiated the Beidou-1 project on a trial basis in 2000, with the first satellite launched in October that year.
By the time the Beidou-2 network started to be constructed in April 2007, Beidou-1 had four satellites in orbit, and the network was used in sectors including fishery and military.
All the satellites of the navigation network were launched by the Long March 3 carrier rocket.
Xinhua contributed to this story
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