China have been hard at work developing its own world-wide positioning system, where it hops to distance itself from foreign dependence and providing an alternative to the popular GPS. China have just announced that this month's satellite marks the first time their positioning network has started offering navigational data.
China have named their GPS-alternative "Beidou", which is a Chinese word which represents the constellation to English-speakers Westerners as the "Big Dipper" or the "Plough". Beidou currently sports 10 satellites but covers "only" most of continental Asia. Right now, the network is obviously less accurate than GPS, but they plan to close that gap with additional satellites.
There are plans from China to extend Beidou's orbital network to a total of 35 satellites by 2020. This will give Beidou the power of global coverage with GPS-like precision. Six of those satellites will be launched next year alone.
In the meantime, the U.S. are working on GPS III. GPS III is faster, more surprise, and more powerful than the standard which is already in place. The first upgrades for GPS III are set for 2014.
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