"China has mastered the core technology of space payload and ground systems for search and rescue satellite systems. It is time to research and develop the self-controlled search and rescue system with Beidou," Wu Chungeng, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Transport, said Thursday.
Wu also said that Beidou has become part of the International Cospas-Sarsat Program, a nonprofit, intergovernmental and humanitarian cooperative with 44 members, including the United States, Russia, China and Canada.
According to the ministry, the move will expand China’s participation in global humanitarian efforts.
"It also supports Beidou's global development, promoting the system's international influence and power in the field of satellite navigation," the statement read.
The ministry also said that Beijing plans to further globally expand the system and promote its "international influence and power in the field of satellite navigation."
The first launch under the Beidou program was carried out in 2000 and since then 29 satellites have been put in orbit, with the most recent launch in November, 2017. By 2020, China plans to expand its global satellite navigation system to a network of 35 satellites.
Beidou is currently the world’s fourth navigation satellite system, after the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia’s GLONASS and European Union’s Galileo. By developing its own global navigation system, China expects to cut reliance on GPS-based services.