The BDS is now one of the four global navigation networks alongside the United States' GPS, Russia's GLONASS and the European Union's Galileo. Credit: Xinhua.

The last satellite of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) was successfully sent into space from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday, marking the completion of the country’s domestically developed BeiDou constellation.

It is now one of the four global navigation networks alongside the United States’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.

The satellite, the 55th in the family of BeiDou that means “Big Dipper” in Chinese, was launched at 9:43 a.m. Beijing Time and sent into the preset orbit by a Long March-3B carrier rocket, Xinhua reported.

The mission, the 336th by the Long March rocket series, was a “complete success,” the launch center said.

The successful launch of the final satellite in China’s BeiDou constellation marked “a further step in the country’s advance as a major space power,” the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The BDS, one of four global navigation satellite systems in the world, will work with other BeiDou satellites and together provide global users with all-time, all-weather and high-accuracy positioning, navigation and timing services.

The AP noted that the Chinese government has been devoting vast resources to developing “independent high-tech capabilities” over the past two decades, with a rapid rise in its space program.

“I think the Beidou-3 system being operational is a big event,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, was quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying on Tuesday.

“This is a big investment from China and makes China independent of US and European systems,” McDowell said.

Compared with other global systems in the world, the design of the BDS constellation is unique, including its medium earth orbit, inclined geosynchronous orbit and geostationary earth orbit satellites, according to the satellite developer China Academy of Space Technology, Xinhua reported.

Press Trust of India reported that India is also “building its navigational system called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System” and said China’s move brought it closer to becoming a space power.

State news agency Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Pakistan, one of the first foreign countries to use China’s navigation satellite system, has cooperated with China in training and application systems as well as performance monitoring and assessment.

Reuters said the BeiDou navigation network will give China greater independence from US-owned GPS.

“BeiDou was obviously designed a few decades after GPS, so it has had the benefit of learning from the GPS experience,” Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“It has some signals that have higher bandwidth, giving better accuracy. It has fewer orbit planes for the satellites, making constellation maintenance easier,” Dempster said.

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