The following is based on translations from Chinese media:
China’s GPS system, the Beidou Navigation System (Beidou), now covers only China and its neighbouring areas. Its special characteristic is the capability of message communication between users of the system.
Now the Chinese military’s mouthpiece, The PLA Daily, reports that China has just launched the 17th satellite for its Beidou Navigation System. The report says it is the beginning of intensive missile launches to expand the system to cover the entire world by 2020.
In 2015, China will launch 3 or 4 more satellites with technological innovations to make the system more accurate. The system, when completed, will consist of 5 geostatic and 30 non-geostatic communications satellites.
What is new in this project is that the life of service of a satellite will be lengthened from 8 to more than 10 or 12 years and the accuracy will be double or triple, with error reduced to 2 or 3 meters.
Moreover, with smaller and lighter components the size and weight of each satellite has significantly reduced so that several satellites can be launched by one rocket.
There is also improvement in the rocket with the addition of one fourth stage so that the rocket serves as a ferry to send a few satellites direct to their high orbits. China will further reduce the size and weight of the satellites to greatly reduce the cost of each satellite.
Chinese experts point out the three new characteristics in the expansion project:
First, there are no changes of orbit before reaching the final high orbit of a satellite. As a result the satellite may be sent to its high orbit within 6 hours.
Second, there are communication chains between the satellites to enable the GPS system to navigate on its own.
Third, as mentioned above, the satellites used in the system are significantly smaller and lighter to greatly reduce launching costs.
Source: PLA Daily “China resumes intensive launches of Beidou GPS satellites to enable its Beidou Navigation System to cover the entire world” and “Experts on three technological characteristics of the new generation of Beidou Navigation satellites” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the reports in Chinese”
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