BEIJING China launched a navigation satellite on Saturday to be used for everything from tracking forest fires to public security, Xinhua news agency said.
With more to be launched in coming years, the system would cover China and neighboring countries by 2008, before being expanded into a global network, it said.
The "Compass" navigational system is designed to provide positioning services in transportation, meteorology, petroleum prospecting, forest fire monitoring, disaster forecasts, telecommunications and public security.
Previous reports said the Compass series would provide clients with positioning accuracy within 10 meters (yards), velocity accuracy with 0.2 meter per second and timing accuracy within 50 nanoseconds.
China put a man in space in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after the Soviet Union and United States, and launched a second manned space flight in 2005.
China last month called for a treaty to stop the spread of weapons in outer space, two months after it blew up an aging weather satellite, prompting fears about its own space plans.