China Launches Twin Satellites for Silk Road
China launched twin satellites on a single carrier rocket last week for its BeiDou satellite navigation system.
The Medium Earth Orbit satellites are part of a third generation of technology designed to cover nations involved involved in China's New Silk Road - Belt and Road Initiative. The are expected to be operational by the end of 2018 and carry upgraded atomic clocks to provide more precise position estimates. Civilian use of the system will provide a position accuracy of 10 meters, a velocity accuracy of 0.2 m/s and a time accuracy of 50 nanoseconds. Military services will offer higher accuracy.
When fully deployed in 2020, the Beidou fleet will consist of 35 satellites.
The first BeiDou satellite was launched in 2000 as part of a program to provide positioning, navigation, timing and short message services in China and other Asian countries. The system became operational in China in December 2011, with 16 satellites in use, and began offering services to customers in the Asia-Pacific region in December 2012.
The network is now used to guide more than 4.8 million taxis, buses and trucks, as well as 40,000 fishing vessels. More than 10,000 fishermen have been rescued or received assistance after using Beidou-enabled devices to send distress signals.
Beidou is the world's fourth navigation satellite system, following the U.S.-developed GPS, Russia's GLONASS and the European Union's Galileo.