China successfully launched two BeiDou-3 satellites to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the end of 2018.
This is the first launch of the BeiDou satellites in 2018, which will see intensive launches in coming days.
The March-3B carrier rocket took off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the south western province of Sichuan.
The two satellites are coded the 26th and 27th satellites in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS). China plans to send 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space in 2018.
BeiDou Navigation Satellite System
The BDS is being built as a rival to US Global Positioning System (GPS). It consists of two separate satellite constellations; a limited test system that has been operating since 2000, and a full-scale global navigation system that is currently under construction.
Named after the Chinese term for the Big Dipper; the BeiDou project was formally launched in 1994. It began to serve China in 2000 and the Asia-Pacific region by the end of 2012. By 2020, when the BDS will go global, it will have more than 30 satellites.
BeiDou is considered as a potential navigation satellite system to overtake GPS in global usage, and is likely to be more precise than the GPS, once it is fully completed. The current 3rd generation of BeiDou claims to reach millimetre level accuracy, which is ten times more exact than the finest level of GPS.
China is trying to move to BeiDou into the international satellite navigation system, enhance international cooperation, and make it compatible with GPS from the United States, Russia's GLONASS, and the European Union's Galileo.
Belt and Road initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is multibillion dollar project started by China to build, roads, ports, railway and other infrastructure projects in different parts of the world to expand its global influence.