China’s GPS rival Beidou is fully operational after the last satellite was broadcast

China's GPS rival Beidou is fully operational after the last satellite was broadcast

So far only four main GNSS networks: GPS (USA), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (European Union) and now Beidou. India and Japan operate smaller systems.

Most people are familiar with GPS used for everything from personal navigation on your smartphone to tracking planes and container ships around the world.

Beidou is China’s alternative system. It took the name of the Chinese word for the Big Dipper constellation and took about twenty years to complete.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert working with the China Civil Affairs and National Development and Reform Commission, has hopes that Beidou can become a global competitor for GPS, but the US option still has an “absolute market share”. .

Experts said that China’s pressure on a new navigation network is due to its desire to reduce its dependence on America’s GPS, especially in its armed forces.

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

“To be honest with Beidou, there is nothing unique about it,” Dempster said. Said. “It is this prestige thing that the Chinese want to say they have. Going to the moon is the same as planting a flag for him.” Said.

GPS history

The United States and Russia began building on their own GNSS navigation series at the peak of the Cold War.

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

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Most systems, such as GPS, operate using four satellites at once to measure the distance (eg your smartphone) required for a signal to reach a point on the ground.

China started building its navigation sequence 1994. Studies on Galileo started later, but the EU network It is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2020.

Song said that the USA, Russia and now China Beidou systems are either partially owned or operated by the military. Galileo network is a completely civil GNSS system.

All four of these systems consist of at least 20 satellites, According to the GPS website.

Experts said that the access and effectiveness of existing global GNSS networks leaves little rationale for creating additional sequences.

Suelynn Choy, who is associate professor at RMIT’s Science School of Science Cluster in Melbourne, said that as an Galileo network did in July 2019, it may be helpful to have an alternative if a particular GNSS network is unexpectedly offline.

“It is good from a civil point of view, because we are not so dependent on a single system … it can cause a lot of trouble to the global economy.”

However, another benefit is that ASCER’s Dempster gives the operating country a military advantage over its competitors. If an opposing army is navigating using your GNSS network, you can only turn off its signals.

Military advantages

Dempster said there has been a global debate over the risks of using Chinese internet infrastructure like 5G provider Huawei in recent years, while the same concerns are not applicable to GNSS systems.

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“You are transmitting a signal, you have a receiver, and if there is no other channel, you are not communicating back to the GPS system or the Beidou system,” he said.

However, militants, there is a risk that the controlling government may distort or use the GNSS system of an enemy country that is likely to close properly.

Kevin McCauley, a former intelligence officer and analyst who wrote for the Chinese Summary in 2014, has been mostly on GPS for navigation.

“But Beidou terminals seem to have been deployed more throughout the PLA, while providing capabilities that were not previously available for the Chinese army,” McCauley said. Said.

Once the system is complete, PLA and the Chinese government can rely on their own navigation series.

Dempster said this could happen It is especially important for Beijing as tensions with the US have grown on a number of fronts.

“It would be logical for them to have their own military systems because there was a conflict on these islands in the South China Sea, GPS could oppose them, and the US army could still use the military signal.”

“So there would be satellite navigation, and the Chinese wouldn’t exist.”

Experts said that China may not force Beidou to GPS as a potential civilian rival. Already close ally Pakistan Access to the Beidou network has been granted, Move away from the US alternative. Experts said Beijing could have access to the countries that have signed the Kemer and Yol infrastructure initiatives.

“No matter in what industry, a minimal error can cause wide-ranging differences. Beidou can guarantee excellent accuracy.” Said. “Navigation satellites best products of military-civilian [cooperation]Application value and market area are huge. “

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– CNN’s Shanshan Wang contributed to this article.

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