Bei­dou up­grades for global reach

China Daily European Weekly - - CHINA NEWS - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China has be­gun to up­grade its Bei­dou Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem with global-cov­er­age ca­pa­bil­i­ties through the launch of new satel­lites.

Two third-gen­er­a­tion Bei­dou satel­lites, the first of their type, were launched atop a Long March 3B car­rier rocket from Xichang Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter in Sichuan prov­ince on Nov 5 and were placed in medium Earth or­bit thou­sands of kilo­me­ters above the Earth. They will func­tion for at least 12 years, ac­cord­ing to the China Satel­lite Nav­i­ga­tion Of­fice.

Bei­dou is the world’s fourth nav­i­ga­tion satel­lite sys­tem, fol­low­ing GPS in the United States, GLONASS in Rus­sia and Galileo in the Euro­pean Union.

The new-gen­er­a­tion satel­lites fea­ture bet­ter ac­cu­racy, sta­bil­ity and sig­nal clar­ity than pre­vi­ous Bei­dou mod­els, thanks to im­prove­ments in in­ter­satel­lite links, laser com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices and atomic clocks. They will also be more com­pat­i­ble with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo, the satel­lite of­fice said in a news re­lease.

Yang Changfeng, chief de­signer of the Bei­dou sys­tem, says de­vel­op­ment of third-gen­er­a­tion Bei­dou satel­lites started in 2009. Sci­en­tists used five Bei­dou satel­lites launched in 2015 and 2016 to ver­ify tech­nolo­gies for the third-gen­er­a­tion mod­els.

Xie Jun, chief en­gi­neer of the third­gen­er­a­tion Bei­dou satel­lites at the China Academy of Space Tech­nol­ogy, says each of the new­est satel­lites is able to op­er­ate au­tonomously for at least 60 con­sec­u­tive days if ground con­trol en­coun­ters mal­func­tions. This en­ables the net­work to re­duce de­pen­dence on ground sta­tions and to re­duce op­er­a­tional costs.

By the end of 2018, China will have launched 18 third-gen­er­a­tion Bei­dou satel­lites into space to cover all na­tions in­volved in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, in­clud­ing the two launched on Nov 5, the of­fice said.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, pro­posed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road. It is es­ti­mated to ben­e­fit about 4.4 bil­lion peo­ple in 65 na­tions, ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment.

The Bei­dou sys­tem now cov­ers nearly 30 coun­tries in­volved in the ini­tia­tive, in­clud­ing Pak­istan, Egypt and In­done­sia, the of­fice said.

In 2019 and 2020, China will send six third-gen­er­a­tion Bei­dou satel­lites into medium Earth or­bits, as well as three to in­clined geosyn­chronous satel­lite or­bits and two to geo­sta­tion­ary or­bits. Both are syn­chro­nized with the ro­ta­tion of the Earth, but geo­sta­tion­ary satel­lites are parked over the equa­tor, ac­cord­ing to gis­geog­ra­phy.com.

Ac­cord­ing to plans from the China Satel­lite Nav­i­ga­tion Of­fice, the net­work will be made up of more than 30 satel­lites be­fore the end of 2020 — sev­eral now in or­bit will be de­com­mis­sioned by then — to give Bei­dou global cov­er­age.

Twenty-seven satel­lites have been launched for the Bei­dou net­work, the first in 2000 and the most re­cent, be­fore the Nov 5 launch, in June of last year. The sys­tem be­gan pro­vid­ing po­si­tion­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, tim­ing and mes­sage ser­vices to civil­ian users in China and parts of the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion in De­cem­ber 2012.

CHEN XIAOGEN / FOR CHINA DAILY

The model of Bei­dou Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem in an ex­hi­bi­tion in Beijing.

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