China Cancels Beidou Satellite Launch Citing Technical Problem

June 16, 2020 Updated: June 16, 2020

BEIJING—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 percent of mobile phones in China were Beidou-enabled as of 2019, state media reported, including models made by Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Samsung. Millions of taxis, buses, and trucks use Beidou signals.

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