China is close to launching the last two satellites that will complete BeiDou-3 Navigation Satellite System—the nation’s rival to the United States’ Global Positioning System.
Ran Chengqi, a spokesperson for China’s Satellite Navigation Office, shared the status of the program on Friday at a rare media event, according to the Associated Press. Ran told reporters that this month China launched satellites that comprised the core of the navigation system, enabling the network to provide global service.
The additions brought the number of satellites in the constellation to 24, nearing the completion of the network. “Before June 2020, we plan to launch two more satellites into geostationary orbit and the BeiDou-3 system will be fully completed,” Ran said, according to the AP.
This is the third version of the BeiDou system. BeiDou 1, consisting of three satellites, started providing limited navigational services in 2000, and it was decommissioned in 2012. That year, BeiDou 2's ten-satellite network began providing service in and around Asia.
In 2015, China began working on a third version of the project that was capable of providing global coverage. BeiDou is now the fourth global positioning service—following GPS, fully operational in 1993; Russia’s GLONASS, which has provided global coverage since 2011; and the European Union’s Galileo that has been functional since 2016.
Last year the U.S. Federal Communications Commission allowed non-federal devices to use some signals from Galileo.
Ran told the media that with the launch of the latest BeiDou satellites, the network now has an accuracy of five meters in the Asia-Pacific, and ten meters anywhere else across the globe.
“As a major space infrastructure for China to provide public services to the world, the BeiDou system will always adhere to the development concept of ‘China’s Beidou, the world’s BeiDou, and the first-class BeiDou,’ serving the world and benefiting mankind,” Ran said, according to AP.
With the completion of BeiDou, China will come closer to bringing its own creeping surveillance state to the rest of the world.