China launches the ultimate satellite system competitor of the GPS

La Chine lance l’ultime satellite de son système concurrent du GPS

BEIJING | The GPS has a new competitor of weight: the China was finalized on Tuesday with the launch of a latest satellite navigation system Beidou, which allows him to cover the entire world and to be rid of the Americans.

Expected last week, the event had been postponed at the last moment due to a “technical problem” is not specified.

The 30th and final satellite of the third generation Beidou (Beidou-3) has been propelled into space at 9h43 local (21h43 Monday in Quebec) from the center of launch from Xichang, in south-west China, by a rocket Long-March 3, said the public television CCTV.

Already in commercial service overseas since 2012, chinese technology was initially limited to the Asia-Pacific region. With the completion of this constellation, the whole planet is now covered.

Beidou, which takes its name from the constellation “Great Bear” in mandarin, cohabiting with other satellite navigation systems at the global level: GPS (property of the u.s. government and operated by the air force), Galileo (european Union) and Glonass (Russia).

Their applications are multiple: guidance for pedestrians, automobiles, boats, cargo ships, first responders during natural disasters, sending messages, positioning service to the mining industry or agriculture…

Strategic, they can also be used by the armies of their respective countries (China, U.s., Russia) in order to perform the geolocation or of the guidance system of missiles of very high precision.

The launch Tuesday is a “big event” that “can make China independent systems, european and american,” notes Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Center Harvard-Smithsonian for astrophysics, in the United States.

Cut-off of GPS

“The completion of Beidou-3 is a major event for the chinese population, but also undoubtedly to his army,” stresses Carter Palmer, a specialist in space issues, the american firm Forecast International.

In the clear: with its constellation is complete, China may find shelter from a possible cutoff of GPS, decided by the United States in the event of a hypothetical conflict between the two powers.

Since the launch of the program in the 1990s, more than 100,000 scientists, engineers and technicians have participated in the design of the navigation system. The first satellite, Beidou had been launched in 2000.

Its services are now employed in China in taxis, buses, cars and, of course, by the smart phones.

Dozens of countries such as Pakistan, Thailand, Laos or Brunei also use already formally on the system, according to the State media chinese.

“Most of the smart phones on Android work with a positioning mode that receives signals simultaneously to GPS, Beidou, Glonass and Galileo in order to improve the positioning precision “, points out also Chen Lan, an analyst for the site specializing in the space program chinese.

“In addition, there are a large number of industrial users, including ships and fleet logistics in China “, which, in addition to the positioning service of Beidou use the ” messaging system “, which is not present in its competitors, for ” emergency and rescue “, he notes.

“Better accuracy “

But the chinese system can really nibble market share or even dethrone his rival american?

“In general, Beidou has better accuracy than the GPS,” stresses Carter Palmer. “But its reliability remains to be demonstrated. “

The margin of error of the navigation system at the global level is of 10 metres in a civil version, according to the official data provided Tuesday. A very good accuracy which enables it to win market share in the face of the GPS.

“I don’t think that Beidou will supplant entirely the GPS,” predicts Mr Palmer. “Rather, I envision a situation where the user will use several systems, including Beidou, for of navigation data by satellite more accurate. “

According to Jonathan McDowell, the american system should therefore maintain its dominance ” in ten or twenty years to come.”

The financial issue is important.

The field of navigation by satellite is expected to weigh in China this year 400 billion yuan (50 billion euros), according to a senior official quoted by official media.

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