June 16, 2020 / 12:59 AM / 18 days ago

China postpones Beidou satellite launch over technical problem

The launch pad of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center is seen the day before the Beidou-3 satellite, the last satellite of China's Beidou Navigation Satellite System, is set to launch in Sichuan province, China June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BEIJING (Reuters) - China indefinitely postponed on Tuesday the launch of the final satellite of its Beidou navigation network because of technical problems in the rocket meant to launch it into orbit.

The official website for the Beidou network said in a statement that problems were detected during pre-launch tests of the Long March-3B booster and that the new launch date would be determined later. It did not offer specifics on the problems or the launch date.

The Beidou-3 satellite was expected to be the 35th and final satellite of the Chinese navigation system - an estimated $10 billion project meant to be Beijing’s answer to the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System.

When completed, China says, the system will keep military communications secure and improve weapons targeting, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beidou also has major civilian applications. More than 70% of mobile phones in China were Beidou-enabled as of 2019, state media reported, including models made by Huawei [HWT.UL], Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo and Samsung. Millions of taxis, buses and trucks use Beidou signals.

China’s satellite navigation sector may top 400 billion yuan ($57 billion) in value this year, Chinese state media have reported.

Reporting by Se Young Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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