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China launches first satellite after satellite-killing missile test
BEIJING, Feb 3 (AFP) Feb 03, 2007
China launched an experimental navigation satellite into space early Saturday, state press reported, the nation's first space launch since it tested a satellite-killing missile last month.

The Beidou (Big Dipper) satellite was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launching Centre in southwest China's Sichuan province aboard a Long March 3-A rocket, Xinhua news agency said.

The satellite separated from the rocket 24 minutes into the flight and has successfully entered its planned orbit, the report said.

The launch was the first since China shocked the world on January 11 with a successful missile test that destroyed an orbiting Chinese weather satellite.

The satellite-killing missile raised global concerns of a renewed arms race to weaponise outer space.

The test made China only the third country in the world -- after the United States and the former Soviet Union -- to down an object in space.

Saturday's satellite launch was the fourth in the nation's Beidou (Big Dipper) experimental navigation satellite system that began in October 2000, Xinhua said.

The system is expected to be fully operational for clients in China and Asia by 2008 and according to current plans the network is to be expanded into a global positioning system in the future, it said.

The system will provide "navigation and positioning services in transportation, meteorology, petroleum prospecting, forest fire monitoring, disaster forecast, telecommunications and public security among others," it said.

China is one of several countries in the world capable of developing such a system on its own, it added.

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