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China GPS rival Beidou is now fully operational after launching the final satellite

China completes navigation network Beidou
Adam D. Crook
Written by Adam D. Crook

To this day, there are only The four major GNSS networks: GPS (US), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (European Union) and now Beaudou. India and Japan operate small systems.

Most people know about the GPS used for everything from personal navigation on your smartphone to tracking planes and container ships.

Beedou is China’s alternative system. It was coined by the Chinese word for the Big Dipper, and it took nearly two decades to complete.

China hopes to make Beedou a global contender for GPS, but the US option still has “absolute market share,” said Song Jongping, a Chinese military expert who has worked with the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission. .

Experts say China’s push for a new navigation network is also driven by a desire to reduce its dependence on US GPS, particularly the armed forces.

According to Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Center for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at the University of New South Wales, a country with its own GNSS network has more advantages than prestige.

“To be honest with Beaudo, there’s nothing special about it,” Dempster said. “The ambitious thing is that the Chinese want to say they got it. It’s like going to the moon and planting a flag for it,” Dempster said.

GPS History

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and Russia began building their own GNSS navigation arrays.

The GPS was first proposed by the US Defense Department in 1973, and the Russian GLONASS system was launched six years later in 1979. Both were declared “fully operational” in 1995.

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Most systems, such as GPS, work by using four satellites simultaneously, to determine how far the signal will reach the ground – for example your smartphone – to calculate exactly where that point is on the map.

China has begun building its navigation range In 1994. Work on Galileo began much later, but the EU network It is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2020.

The U.S., Russian and now Chinese Beedou systems are partly owned or operated by the military, Song said. The Galileo network is the only civilian GNSS system.

These four systems are designed with at least 20 satellites, According to GPS’s website.

Experts say that the accessibility and effectiveness of existing global GNSS networks provide little justification for building additional arrays.

Sueelin Choi, an associate professor at the RMIT School of Science Cluster in Melbourne, said that, as the Galileo network did in July 2019, it is useful to have an alternative if a particular GNSS network goes unexpectedly offline.

“From a civilian perspective, it’s good because we don’t rely too much on a single system … which can be very troubling to the global economy,” she said.

But the other benefit is that it gives the operating country a military advantage over its competitors, ASCER’s Dempster said. If the opposing army is navigating using your GNSS network, you can turn off their signal.

Military benefits

Dempster said the recent concerns around the risks of using Chinese internet infrastructure such as 5G provider Huawei have been discussed around the globe, and the same concerns do not apply to GNSS systems.

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“It transmits a signal, you have a receiver, and if you don’t have a different channel, you don’t communicate back to the GPS system or the Beadou system,” he says.

But there is a danger when militias are using the hostile country’s GNSS system, which can be distorted by the controlling government or shut down as needed.

Writing for China Brief in 2014, former intelligence officer and analyst Kevin McCauley said that over the years, the China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has relied on Mostly on GPS for its navigation.

“But Beaudou Terminals are now deployed throughout the PLA, while also providing capabilities previously unavailable to the Chinese military,” McCauley said.

Now that the system is complete, the PLA and the Chinese government can rely on their own navigation range.

Dempster says it can be done Be important to Beijing, especially as tensions with the US increase in many sectors.

“It makes sense for them to have their own military system because of the conflict in the South China Sea over these islands. The GPS can deny them and the US military can still use the military code,” he said.

“So they have satellite navigation and there are no Chinese.”

Experts say China is not only pushing Beedo as a potential civilian contender for GPS. Already, there is a close-knit Pakistan Access to the Beedou network is granted, Replacing it from the US alternative. Experts said Beijing’s signature belt and road infrastructure programs could give countries access to signatures.

“Regardless of any industry, the minimum error can lead to widespread variability. Beedou can guarantee perfect accuracy,” Song said. “Navigation satellites are the best products of the military-citizen [cooperation]Their app value and market space are huge. “

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– CNN’s Shanshan Wang contributed to this article.

About the author

Adam D. Crook

Adam D. Crook

Adam is a charismatic science communicator respected for his deep understanding of US S&T system. "New Frontiers in Science & Development' is the online platform he contributes to actively in addition to Science and Getty Images. He has won many national and international awards for his work. Explaining complexities of science in a simple language is his forte. He has extensive experience in reporting about the United State atomic energy program.
His pioneering work show casing US’s maiden mission to Mars and Moon has been applauded this aired in English for Television. In his two decades of writing for the prestigious American weekly Science, his stories have highlighted.

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