The Chinese government on Feb. 24 launched a Beidou timing, positioning and navigation satellite aboard a Long March 3C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan Province at 11:12 a.m. EDT, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency. The launch was China’s third in 2012.
The latest Beidou satellite is the 11th spacecraft in a timing, positioning and navigation constellation that China is developing as an alternative to the U.S. GPS network. Initial launches for the Beidou constellation began in 2000; it entered limited regional service late last year. The constellation is slated to go fully operational in 2020 with five geostationary satellites and 30 medium Earth orbit satellites, according to a long-term space plan China released in December.