Any­where and Ev­ery­where

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Edited by Hu Zhoumeng

If you end up stranded on a de­serted is­land to­day, hope­fully your mo­bile phone still has power as well as the Bei­dou Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem (BDS) app. With it, a cast­away could send a “help” mes­sage to any­one within a hun­dred-mile ra­dius.

China’s home­grown BDS fea­tures in­te­grated func­tions of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, time ser­vice and nav­i­ga­tional guide. Stan­ford Pro­fes­sor Brad­ford Parkin­son, con­sid­ered the Fa­ther of the Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem (GPS), even noted that Bei­dou’s unique de­sign pro­vides a won­der­ful experience of know­ing where you are as well as any­one else.

Late Start

China started build­ing its own satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem in 2000 by send­ing or­biters into space to build a dou­ble-satel­lite ex­per­i­men­tal po­si­tion­ing sys­tem. The sys­tem, known as Bei­dou-1, was only in­tended for do­mes­tic ser­vice. By the end of 2012, China had com­pleted the Bei­dou-2 sys­tem which ex­panded ser­vice to the Asia-pa­cific re­gion with 32 ground sta­tions and 14 net­work­ing satel­lites, in­clud­ing five Geo­sta­tion­ary Earth Or­bit (GEO) satel­lites, five In­clined Geosyn­chronous Satel­lite Or­bit (IGSO) satel­lites and four Medium Earth Or­bit (MEO) satel­lites. Plans call for the Bei­dou-3 sys­tem to ac­com­plish con­stel­la­tion de­ploy­ment with 35 satel­lites, in­clud­ing five GEO and 30 non-geo satel­lites, to pro­vide global ser­vice by 2020.

BDS, born decades later than the United States’ pi­o­neer­ing GPS, has be­come one of the four mem­bers of the Global Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem (GNSS) club along­side Rus­sia’s GLONASS and the Euro­pean Union’s Galileo. Like its peers, BDS pro­vides two types of ser­vice: open ser­vice for the public and re­stricted ser­vice for the mil­i­tary. The public ser­vice is free, with lo­ca­tion­track­ing ac­cu­racy within 10 me­ters and time syn­chro­niza­tion within 10 nanosec­onds.

China aims to strengthen in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion with other coun­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tions, and en­hance the BDS com­pat­i­bil­ity with other satel­lite sys­tems to ben­e­fit global users. China and the United States have been work­ing to­wards GPS-BDS com­pat­i­bil­ity for years in fields like avi­a­tion. “Land­ing a plane in pea-soup fog con­di­tions is pretty im­pres­sive,” re­marked Tom Lan­gen­stein, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Stan­ford Cen­ter for Po­si­tion, Nav­i­ga­tion and Time. “It’s a nice area of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween our coun­tries.”

Boom­ing Busi­ness

Many in China were in­tro­duced to BDS when it of­fered re­mark­able as­sis­tance to res­cue ef­forts af­ter the mas­sive Wenchuan earth­quake in 2008. The tech­nol­ogy proved in­cred­i­bly help­ful in per­form­ing disas­ter re­lief. BDS can also be quite use­ful in fields such as wildlife pro­tec­tion and oceanic fish­ing, realms in which com­mu­ni­ca­tion has pre­vi­ously been dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive.

Aided by ground sta­tions across the coun­try, BDS is im­prov­ing ac­cu­racy to the cen­time­ter re­gard­less of at­mo­spheric changes. “The Na­tional Bei­dou Pre­ci­sion Ser­vice Net­work cov­ers 317 cities across the coun­try so far, and can pro­vide pre­cise lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion, ac­cu­rate time in­for­ma­tion and short-mes­sage com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vice in al­most ev­ery area,” noted Miao Qian­jun, sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the Global Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem and Lo­ca­tion Based Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion of China.

BDS is shap­ing ev­ery­day life in China with in­creas­ingly wide ap­pli­ca­tion. For in­fra­struc­ture, it helps po­si­tion un­der­ground gas and power lines, and mon­i­tor de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of bridges, high­ways and dams. In agri­cul­ture, the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem greatly improves farm­ing ef­fi­ciency by guid­ing op­er­a­tions of agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery. In trans­porta­tion, the pop­u­la­tion of ve­hi­cles equipped with BDS is ris­ing, and bike-shar­ing com­pa­nies Ofo and Mo­bike have be­come its cus­tomers.

Data has in­di­cated that the out­put value of China’s satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and lo­cat­ing ser­vices to­taled around US$31 bil­lion in 2016, with BDS con­tribut­ing over 30 per­cent. That num­ber is pre­dicted to hit US$59 bil­lion in 2020.

“The ap­pli­ca­tion of aero­space sci­ence to im­prove peo­ple’s liveli­hood is tremen­dously im­por­tant,” noted Sun Ji­adong, 88-yearold chief de­signer of BDS.

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