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China's five-year plan to launch 40 Beidou navigation satellites

February 8, 2016

To support its ambitious global positioning and navigation network, China plans to launch around 40 Beidou navigation satellites over the next five years, The Economic Times reports.

On 1 February this year, China launched the 21st Beidou Navigation Satellite System, a new-generation satellite, into orbit.

State-run Xinhua News Agency cited the director of the China Satellite Navigation Office and spokesperson for the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, Ran Chengqi, announcing plans to put 18 more satellites into orbit for Beidou's navigation service by the end of 2018.

The improvement of software algorithm and other technology developments have resulted in the positioning accuracy of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System inside China reaching five meters.

Earlier reports cited China's plan to have a complete Beidou system in place, consisting of 35 satellites by 2020. This satellite system would provide global coverage with timing accuracy of 20 nanoseconds and positioning accuracy of less than 10 meters.

The initial 16 satellites from the Beidou system formed a network that only covered China and surrounding areas, while the 17th satellite, the first new-generation, was launched in March 2015 with the aim of transitioning the network from regional coverage to global.

Once the latest satellite—the 21st in total and the fifth new-generation—is in orbit, it will set the framework and technical standards for global coverage by joining the four previous satellites in testing a new navigation-signalling system and inter-satellite crosslinks.

The expansion of the Beidou services will provide the majority of countries that are part of China's "Belt and Road" initiative by 2018, while the country plans to offer global coverage by 2020.

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