(From Wired News)
ON SUNDAY MORNING, the Chinese government launched the 23rd satellite in its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System—the Chinese equivalent of GPS—into orbit aboard a Long March-3C rocket. BeiDou has worked for a while on a regional level, but China has been racking up the launches recently. Each one is another step toward BeiDou having fully operational global coverage, something that only the United States and (kinda, sometimes, maybe) Russia have today. If it works, it could mean a new golden age of navigation. Unless it leads to global war.
BeiDou is already a a Regional Navigational Satellite System; India and Japan are working on their own regional systems, too. Completing the Chinese constellation would turn it into a Global Navigational Satellite System, joining the US (the familiar GPS), Russia (GLONASS), and the European Union (Galileo). Though each places satellites in slightly different orbits and at different altitudes, they all work on the same idea, providing global coverage with enough signal to allow devices on Earth to triangulate a precise location. GPS is accurate to within a meter. Read more