- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - China fired into orbit Wednesday its second satellite in a program to build an alternative to the global positioning system based on U.S. satellites.

The geostationary satellite is one of a series being slung into space to form the Beidou, or “Compass,” navigation system, the official Xinhua News Agency said, calling the system a “crucial part of the country’s space infrastructure.”

The system is touted by China as an alternative to the U.S. satellite GPS network, the dominant positioning system, although it isn’t clear how far China has progressed in bringing the project to fruition.

Although the U.S. government says China has already launched at least five navigation satellites, Xinhua said Wednesday’s launch, which was fired off at 00:16 a.m. (1616 GMT) from the southwestern Xichang launching center using a Long March 3C rocket, was only the second directly tied to the global navigation system.

It said China’s current satellite navigation system only covers China and adjacent regions.

The launch comes almost exactly two years after the first Beidou satellite was placed into orbit, Xinhua said.

Xinhua said 30 more satellites would be needed before 2015 to complete the system, with 10 going up by the end of next year.

China has been both a competitor and a partner in global positioning system efforts. While seeking to operate independently of the U.S. system, it has invested in the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system and is talking about participating in Russia’s GLONASS system.

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