A rocket carrying the fifth of a planned array of 35 orbiters blasted off from the Xichang space launch center in Sichuan, southwest China, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Beijing started a drive to end its reliance on the U.S. Global Positioning System in 2000, when it sent an experimental pair of positioning satellites into orbit.
China's necklace of satellites aims to provide navigation, time and short message services in the Asia-Pacific region before 2012 and will be capable of offering global navigation by 2020, Xinhua said.
The system, codenamed "COMPASS," will be crucial for the transport and oil exploration industries as well as for weather and disaster forecasting, telecommunications and public security, the news agency said.