• China's version of GPS progresses further with the launch of the 23rd satellite into orbit.

China's version of GPS progresses further with the launch of the 23rd satellite into orbit. (Photo : Getty Images)

China is one step closer to having its own GPS that could benefit both private smartphone users and the military as the country launches another satellite into space.

According to Wired, a rocket from China launched to space marked the inclusion of the 23rd satellite in its own version of GPS, BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.

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The South China Morning Post noted that the progress of the BeiDou system could mean that Beijing would soon have the tool to monitor all activities in the hotly contested territories along the South China Sea.

China's GPS

The 23rd satellite in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System launched on June 12 via a Long March-3C rocket brings the Chinese GPS closer to full operation, Wired noted.

Apparently, China has been silently making efforts for this project, which could rival that of the United States and Russia.

According to the website, BeiDou is already considered a Regional Navigational Satellite System, which could later become a global navigational system like the U.S.'s GPS, the Russian GLONASS, and the European Union's Galileo.

On Thursday, China Satellite Navigation Office Director Ran Chengqi explained that BeiDou's current accuracy was at about 10 meters compared to the GPS's 1 meter.

With the addition of more satellites to complete the so-called "Chinese constellation," China's navigational satellite system is expected to be more accurate.

"It will be a change from 10 meters, to decimeters, to centimeters," Ran told the press. "For example, if we hail a cab with a mobile phone with such accuracy, we don't need to tell the driver where we stand, because the car will arrive directly at our feet."

This means that China aims to improve the system a hundred-fold that it would be more accurate than the popular American GPS.

Military Use

While such technological advancement presents a new innovative experience to smartphone users, China may have other purposes for the BeiDou.

The report from Wired noted as much, saying: "If it works, it could mean a new golden age of navigation. Unless it leads to global war."

SCMP also noted that the revolutionary technology could allow the Chinese government to monitor every single vessel treading the seas, which means they would be able to track activities in the disputed South China Sea.

Because of this, the U.S. opted to work with China instead of against it in terms of the navigational system, something experts believe is the right thing to do.

"GPS has been a major boon for the U.S. economy for the last 20 years," Stanford Center for Position, Navigation and Time Executive Director Tom Langenstein told Wired. "China wants some of that. If you want to fear that, you can. But China is the second largest economy in the world and getting larger. It would be far better to cooperate and work with them than try to find some way to fight them."