China Expanding its GPS Satellite Network15 May 2012
Space is getting more crowded with satellites. On April 30th, 2012, China completed a successful launch of two navigation satellites, which become satellites number twelve and thirteen of its rapidly expanding Compass Navigation Satellite System — the country’s second generation satellite navigation system.
Last March, China announced an aggressive goal to place 100 satellites in space by the year 2015, with the hopes to end its reliance on the United States operated Global Positioning System. If China’s global satellite coverage goal is achieved, China will be the third country — in addition to the United States (GPS) and Russia (GLONASS) — to have its own satellite GPS navigation system. They will be decades behind United States and Russia in doing so.
Last year, China launched 19 satellites, which surpassed United States 18 satellites by one. Still, Russia was tops last year by a long shot in its launching of thirty six satellites.
China’s April 30th was the first time the country launched two navigational satellites in one rocket. The one-rocket, two satellites method will help China reach their 100 satellites goal sooner, but the future may enable China to launch a rocket carrier capable of launching up to four satellites within one rocket.
Compass-M3 and Compass M-4 satellites were launches as a pair of navigation satellites using a Long March 3B launch rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The country’s future satellite launches will contain satellites to expand its Compass Navigation Satellite System, but also other remote sensing satellites, used for such things as disaster monitoring, crop yield assessments, land survey, and scientific experiments.
China isn’t only just launching their own satellites into space either. To date, China has assisted the launching of over 20 satellites for other countries, such as Pakistan, Bolivia, and Nigeria.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United States have over 400 active satellites.
By the end of 2012, China hopes to place another three satellites into orbit, giving them a total of 16 satellites — and providing coverage for the entire Pacific-Asia area, including real-time navigation and weather monitoring. On average, the country plans to launch 20 satellites each year in pursuit of their 2015 goal.