Fourth major global navigation system set to be completed this month

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Reuters has reported that China’s BeiDou satellite network is set to be completed at some point this month. The date of the final satellite launch isn’t known yet, but once complete, the constellation will have better global coverage. The network has both military and civilian applications like other constellations.

China has been launching BeiDou satellites since 2000, completing BeiDou-1 by 2003; BeiDou-1 covered China and several surrounding countries. By 2012, BeiDou-2 superseded BeiDou-1 and consisted of 35 satellites and served much of Asia and Oceania. BeiDou-3, the system set to be completed this month, comprises of three GEO satellites, three IGSO satellites and twenty-four MEO satellites. Together these provide global coverage.

BeiDou is already supported by a lot of mobile devices. They use BeiDou satellites as well as GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellites to help you find your location; the more satellites there are, the more accurately they can pinpoint you even if you’re in an area with tall buildings that obstruct your phone’s line of view with satellites.

Of course, the Chinese military will also be able to use the satellites for its operations. According to Reuters, BeiDou is accurate to 10 cm in the Asia-Pacific compared to GPS’s 30 cm range. The European Union’s Galileo is still more accurate than both, giving the public 1-metre accuracy and 1 cm accuracy for the military.

Overall, as far as average consumers are concerned, BeiDou’s completion is a positive step forward. With internet-connected devices expected to boom in the coming decades, things like self-driving cars and other technologies that rely on navigation satellites should get more reliable information from the greater number of satellites in orbit.

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