To reduce dependence on the US-owned Global Positioning System, China has now completed its bouquet of satellites for navigation. It is called BDS.
A model of the BeiDou navigation satellite system at an exhibition in China. (Photo: Reuters)
- China gets its own navigation system as alternative to US-owned GPS
- China has launched its final satellite of BeiDou Navigation Satellite System
- Originally developed for military, China extended BDS for commercial use
When you navigate through a maze of lanes in a new city using GPS (Global Positioning System), you hardly ever realise that you are telling the US government about your exact location. A small device in your pocket or installed in your car tells the American authorities what they might possibly want to know about you should you be a person of interest.
There were two rivals to the US-owned GPS: GLONASS of Russia and Galileo of the European Union. Now, there is more potent player in the space with sharper eyes. It is BDS.
China has completed its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) with the launch of last satellite announced on Tuesday. BeiDou is the Chinese name for the Big Dipper constellation.
The BDS is by far the largest network of satellites providing network coverage everywhere across the globe. The Chinese navigation system has 35 satellites compared to 32 in the GPS, 30 in the Galileo and 26 in GLONASS.
China has linked it with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that ambitiously plans to have a Chinese network on land and through seas to provide for global transport. In a way, BDS is the space version of BRI. It had opened navigation services to all BRI countries in 2018, when the Chinese called it “Space Silk Route”.
Originally developed for Chinese military in 2000, China opened the BDS for commercial use in 2012. It has expanded its reach since then.
Beidou can identify a user’s location to 10m (33ft), their velocity to within 0.2 metres per second, and clock synchronisation signals to within 50 nanoseconds.
China is now ready to map every nook and corner of the world. It has used this technology to strengthen its military plans in regions where China lays claims on territories of its neighbours, including India in the west and South China Sea countries in the east.