China to establish global satellite navigation system by 2020
A senior space technology expert in China said the country's global satellite navigation system, which is composed of more than 30 satellites, is expected to be in place by 2020.
China would launch 12 to 14 satellites during the early part of the 12th Five-Year (2011-2015) Program, said Qi Faren, former chief designer for Shenzhou spaceships, during an exclusive interview with Xinhua Tuesday.
China started building its own satellite navigation system in 2000 and had set up a regional satellite navigation system after launching three Beidou geostationary satellites between October 2000 and May 2003. Beidou is the Chinese pinyin of compass.
"The Beidou-1 regional navigation system played an important role in the rescue efforts following the devastating earthquake in May 2008 in Wenchuan as it provided the only channel connecting the quake-hit area and the outside," he said.
The Beidou-1 system can not meet growing demand, so a better functional Beidou-2 regional and global navigation system will be set up in two stages, said Qi, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Between the early part of 2011-2015 period, 12 to 14 navigation satellites will be launched to provide navigation, timing and short message services in the Asia and Pacific region. By 2020 a global navigation system comprising more than 30 satellites will be in place, he said.
As of December 2010, China had launched seven satellites for the indigenous Beidou positioning network.
"The Beidou-2 system can be taken as the China-made GPS which can be applied wherever the U.S. GPS operates," said Qi, adding that the system can play a key role in forecasting earthquakes, defining borders more precisely, guiding lost drivers and ensuring accurate military operations.
Chinese drivers would benefit from the Beidou-2 system since the U.S. GPS is currently the dominant provider of navigation services for vehicles in China, said Qi.
Expert: China to establish global satellite navigation system by 2020