China is making preparations to make its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) available to global users, according to a white paper released by the Chinese government on Thursday, June 16, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The white paper, the first one on navigation satellite system issued by the State Council Information Office, discussed the country's action plan and a three-step strategy to develop the BDS with the aim to deploy 35 satellites around 2020 for commercial use globally. However, before the 2020 goal, the basic services of the BDS will be available to nations along the Belt and Road and its neighboring countries. The navigation services were first planned only for domestic users, but the network had expanded in 2012 to cover the Asia-Pacific region. Although the BeiDou project was launched in 1994, it was not until 2000 that the first satellite was launched. On June 12, 2016, it launched its 23rd satellite.
Users in the Asia-Pacific region currently enjoy the system's open services free of charge, which covers the area between 55 degrees north latitude and 55 degrees south latitude, and between 55 and 180 degrees east longitude. It has a positioning accuracy of less than 10 meters, with velocity measurement accuracy of less than 0.2 meters per second, and timing accuracy of less than 50 nanoseconds. The white paper said that the system is expected to provide global users with all-time, all-weather and high-accuracy positioning, navigation and timing services.
In a press conference on Thursday, June 16, BDS spokesperson Ran Chengqi said that the system is performing well, based on tests in the Asia-Pacific region. Ran, who is also the director of China's Satellite Navigation System management office, said that that the system's positioning accuracy is less than 5 meters in priority cities such as Beijing and Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Ran said that this can also be done on low-latitude countries like Thailand. He added that the BDS can be used by global users to support economic and social development, national security, and improve people's lives.
The BDS is made up of a constellation of satellites with three orbits. Most BDS satellites are in high orbit, which gives it better anti-shielding capabilities. The system provides multiple frequencies in its navigation signals and has five major functions that include real-time navigation, rapid positioning, precise timing, location reporting and short message communication services.
China is encouraging international cooperation and exchanges on navigation satellite system by making it compatible with other systems. The country would like to "share the fruits of development in the field of satellite navigation, increasing the comprehensive application benefits of Global Navigation Satellite System," the white paper said. "As the BDS joins hands with other navigation satellite systems, China will work with all other countries, regions and international organizations to promote global satellite navigation development and make the BDS better serve the world and benefit mankind," the document said.