China Launches Beidou GPS System, Set to Rival US GPS

gps satellite tracking systemLast week China  launched Beidou, its own version of America’s GPS System. China’s new global positioning system,  called the Beidou Navigation Satellite System started providing initial positioning, navigation and timing services ina and around China  last week, said spokesman Ran Chengqi in a news conference.

To date China has launched 10 satellites for the Beidou GPS system. By the end of 2012 China plans to have six more  satellites in orbit, to enhance the system’s accuracy and expand its service to cover most of the Asian-Pacific region.

China’s Beidou still can’t compete with the U.S.’s GPS system in terms of how long, and how accurately it can monitor any part of the globe from space, but this will be changing in the near future.

The GPS system, which was launched for civilian use in 1995, now consists of 30 satellites and can be accurate to within less than 10 meters, or 33 feet, although the U.S. military has access to more precise readings. Mr. Ran said Beidou was accurate to within 25 meters and would reduce that to 10 meters by the end of next year.

The Chinese military may also have access to more accurate data, but because China has fewer satellites, it can’t monitor the same spot for as long as the U.S. According to defense experts, Beidou could help the Chinese military identify, track and strike U.S. ships in the region in the event of armed conflict.

China began building an experimental precursor to Beidou in 2000 with the goal of creating its own global system—called Compass—with 35 satellites, by 2020. The only other operational global system apart from GPS is Russia’s Glonass, although the European Union’s Galileo system is set to be completed by 2020.

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