Bejing to launch in orbit BeiDou: the Chinese alternative to GPS

Bejing to launch in orbit BeiDou: the Chinese alternative to GPS

The latest satellite of China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has entered the countdown phase for its launch, the China Satellite Navigation Office announced on June 14, 2020.

According to Chinese officials, the BeiDou system can provide positioning services with average accuracy within 10 meters; in the Asia-Pacific, region accuracy can be less than five meters. Its speed accurateness is 0.2 meters per second, and its timing precision is 20 nanoseconds. According to Ran Chengqi, director of China Satellite Navigation Office, once the entire system will be completed, its accuracy would be doubled.

The BDS-3 satellite has completed ground technical tests, and other trials before the imminent takeoff at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center said the organization. Currently, the Chinese BDS is the fourth largest satellite navigation system in the world after the United States’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS, and the European Union’s Galileo. Now, it covers the entire planet.

The Long March-3B carrier rocket will carry out the launch mission, after undergoing a range of tests before fuel filling. The missile will be powered with both fuel and cryogenic propellants.

By 2035, a more global, integrated, and smarter positioning, navigation, and synchronization (PNT) system are expected to be established with BDS.

In January 2019, China completed the creation of the BeiDou-3 primary system and the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), aiming at delivering its global services. The statement was made by Ran Chengqi, director of China Satellite Navigation Office and BDS spokesperson at a press meeting. Between November 2017 and November 2018, setting a world record, China launched a total of 19 BeiDou-3 satellites in 10 missions, creating its world navigation system.

The BeiDou system is compatible with other satellite navigation systems, such as the GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, it is designed to provide users with reliable, high-precision positioning, navigation, and timing services. “The BeiDou system has expanded its service scope from the regional to the whole world,” said Ran, and the system “will officially enter a global era.”

The current BeiDou system is built on the constellation of BeiDou-2 satellites. The constellation of 14 satellites was completed in 2012 and capable of providing regional positioning services in the Asia-Pacific region. China began building the BeiDou system in the 1990s and provided services to the Asia-Pacific region since 2012. China has constructed independently and will autonomously operate the BDS global satellite navigation system.

In the last weeks, China also deployed several satellites, designed for different purposes.

On May 31, 2020, China sent the other two satellites into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest of the country. According to Chinese sources, both satellites, propelled by a Long March-2D carrier rocket, were successfully placed in orbit.

Gaofen-9 is optical remote sensing, able to provide photos with a precision of about one meter. It can perform land surveys, urban design, road net design, and crop estimations, as well as disaster assistance. It can also support the delivery of undertakings of the Belt and Road program.

The other satellite, named HEAD-4, was developed by Beijing-based HEAD Aerospace Technology Co. Ltd. It can carry out on-orbit information collection, including that on ships and aircraft, and the Internet of Things.

On May 30, 2020, China sent two satellites into planned orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province Saturday. The two new technology experiment satellites, launched by a Long March-11 carrier rocket, will be mainly used for the new Earth-observation technology experiment, according to Chinese sources.

George Costa

George Costa is a reporter specialized in defence and security systems. He covers international defence and security issues, such as international conflicts, WMD proliferation, and cybersecurity, as well as news reporting on developments in the global defence community.
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