China Seeks ‘Independence’ From GPS With Own Satellite Navigation Service

A Chinese satellite navigation system began providing services yesterday as the nation seeks to end its “dependence” on the U.S.’s Global Positioning System, or GPS, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System began providing initial positioning, navigation and timing operational services for the nation and surrounding areas, Xinhua reported yesterday, citing Ran Chengqi, director of the management office of the China Satellite Navigation System. Work began on the Beidou system in 2000 with a goal of creating a global position service by 2020, according to Xinhua.

The U.S.-owned GPS system is the world’s primary source of satellite navigation data that provides directions for drivers, tracking systems for emergency rescue teams and also positioning services for U.S. military vehicles and munitions. The U.S. Air Force operates the more than 30 satellites on which the system is based.

China has already launched 10 satellites for the Beidou system, the most recent of which entered orbit earlier this month, Xinhua reported. Six more satellites will be launched in 2012 to further improve the system and expand its coverage to most of the Asia-Pacific region, Xinhua quoted Ran as saying. The system is compatible with the world’s other major global navigation satellite systems, according to the report.

Civilian Service

Civilian service provided by the U.S.’s GPS system is freely available to all users on a continuous, worldwide basis, according to the service’s website. The service is made up of space, control and user segments, of which the U.S. Air Force develops, maintains, and operates the space and control segments.

GPS is also “critical to U.S. national security,” according to its website. Its applications are integrated into almost every facet of U.S. military operations and almost all new military equipment, it said.

The Air Force manages the constellation to ensure the availability of at least 24 GPS satellites 95 percent of the time, according to the website. The Air Force flies 31 operational GPS satellites, plus three or four decommissioned satellites that can be reactivated if needed.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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