News China weaves its space “silk road”

China weaves its space “silk road”

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Tuesday at 9:43 am, the Chinese were riveted in front of their television set to follow live the launch of the 3B Long March rocket. His mission ? Put into orbit the thirtieth and final Beidou third generation satellite (BDS-3), allowing the China complete the deployment of its navigation and geolocation system six months ahead of the official schedule. A new step in the rise of China as a great space power.

Beidou – the constellation of Big bear in Mandarin – has been operational since 2000 in China, since 2012 for the entire Asia-Pacific region. Now, it offers global coverage as well as the Russian Glonass system and the European civil program Galileo. Enough to allow the country of Xi Jinping to be strategically independent from the American rival GPS by sheltering its military operations from a possible disruption of service by the American army, as was the case during the crisis of the Taiwan Strait in 1996… Twenty-four years later, Beidou boasts an accuracy of up to 10 cm in Asia-Pacific, for its military version, against 30 cm for the GPS system.

6.6 million vehicles already equipped

In addition to these martial applications, this satellite positioning system can guide pedestrians, motorists, freighters, but also rescuers in the event of natural disasters. Beidou proved itself in 2008 when it helped locate the victims of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan. Since then, China has undertaken to equip all its delivery trucks, coaches, buses and ferries. At the end of 2019, 6.6 million vehicles were loaded with Beidou receivers…

According to a government plan published two years ago, all new car models will have to connect to the Chinese GPS from this year. 70% of smartphones are already compatible, from Chinese brands like Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo but not only. In total, the satellite navigation sector is expected to represent 400 billion yuan (50 billion euros) by the end of the year. In the future, Beidou should allow China to accelerate the development of technologies related to 5G, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.

Beijing also has big international ambitions for its satellite system and actively promotes it along its “New silk routes” . In 2013, Thailand was its first client, followed closely by Pakistan, whose soldiers use the same version of Beidou as the Chinese army. Iran, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Uganda have already trusted Chinese GPS. To date, Beidou has been used in around a hundred countries around the world.

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