When the Chinese invented the compass, humanity steered into uncharted waters. Now China is navigating the world in the new era of global exchange with a new option — its fledging BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).
With the launch of two new BDS-3 satellites on Monday, China will complete the basic navigation system and start to provide services for countries participating in the Belt and Road initiative by the end of this year.
“This is a key step for BDS developing from a domestic Chinese system to a regional and then a global navigation system,” said Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BeiDou system.
China plans to launch another 11 BDS-3 satellites in the coming two years. By the end of 2020, the BeiDou system, named after the Chinese term for the Big Dipper constellation, will become global, and provide high-precision, reliable positioning, navigation and timing services anywhere in the world.
“China develops BDS through a unique technological approach, contributing Chinese wisdom to the theory and construction of international satellite navigation systems,” said Xie Jun, deputy chief designer of the Beidou system.
In 2018, altogether 18 BDS satellites were sent into space from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
“This year has seen the most intensive launch of the BDS satellites. We improved our work efficiency by reforming the management process. The number of satellite staff at the launch center has been reduced by nearly half, and the testing time before launch has been shortened by nearly a third,” said Chi Jun, head of the BDS-3 satellite team from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
Chi has been in the valley of the launch center for more than six months. But he has never seen a BDS satellite launch, as he has to monitor data on a computer each time.