China is close to launching its rival to the United States’ Global Positioning System. The country will launch the last two satellites to complete its BeiDou-2 Navigation Satellite System. According to the Associated Press, China launched satellites that comprised the core of the navigation system this month. This enabled the network to provide global service. Now, the country is set to complete its navigation satellite network to challenge global positioning system operated by the US and GLONASS operated by Russia.
At a rare media event, Ran Chengqi, a spokesperson for China’s Satellite Navigation Office, shared an update on the program. “Before June 2020, we plan to launch two more satellites into geostationary orbit and the BeiDou-3 system will be fully completed,” Ran said, according to the AP. The addition has brought the number of satellites in the constellation to 24, nearing the completion of the network. As the name reveals, this is the third version of the BeiDou system.
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BeiDou-1 consisted of three satellites and started providing limited navigational services in 2000. It was decommissioned in 2012 and replaced with BeiDou-2’s ten satellite network. The new network started providing service in and around Asia. China began work on BeiDou-3 satellite network to provide global coverage in 2015. When operational, BeiDou-3 will be the fourth global positioning service. It follows GPS, which became fully operational in 1993. The second was Russia’s GLONASS, which started providing global coverage since 2011. The third is European Union’s Galileo, which became functional starting 2016.
The US Federal Communications Commission allowed non-federal devices to use some signals from Galileo last year. Ran told media that the latest BeiDou satellites will have an accuracy of five meters in the Asia Pacific. The accuracy anywhere else across the globe will drop to ten meters. “As a major space infrastructure for China to provide public services to the world, the BeiDou system will always adhere to the development concept of China’s Beidou, the world’s BeiDou, and the first-class BeiDou,’ serving the world and benefiting mankind,” Ran said, according to AP.