Feeds

China plans global satnav system

Big sticks only work if you're in the navsat club

High performance access to file storage

With navigation satellite constellations rapidly becoming a must-have for any major world power, China has joined Europe and Russia as an aspirant to match US sat nav technology. The People's Republic has announced that it will upgrade its localised Beidou satellite system to global coverage by 2015.

The Chinese state Xinhua news service reports that Zhang Xiaojin of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation revealed the plans on Chinese television yesterday.

The Singapore Straits Times quotes the senior official as saying that "the system will shake off the dependence on foreign systems".

The only worldwide sat nav constellation currently in service is the American Global Positioning Service (GPS), funded by the US military. The unencrypted, free-to-use GPS civil signal is used by the vast majority of satnav kit worldwide. The former "selective availability" option, in which the accuracy of the civil GPS signal could be degraded*, has now been discontinued. However, America retains the option of denying GPS service at places and times of its own choosing.

Many people worldwide don't care to be reliant on the civil GPS signal, and can't get access to the encrypted military signal (though this latter option is open to American allies). One application of sat nav often seen as strategically critical is the guidance of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). A modern ICBM requires no assistance to strike a city-sized target with a nuclear warhead, but if a more difficult task such as knocking out a hardened enemy launch silo is contemplated then sat nav assistance is necessary.

Quite apart from ICBMs, modern military operations are highly dependent on satnav for hosts of other purposes, with applications now descending to the level of infantry squads or even individual footsoldiers.

Thus the French military in particular are very keen to see the European Galileo system deployed, offering some independence from the use of American GPS. Unlike the UK, France makes its own ICBMs but it has no independent sat nav. Similarly, Russia is currently upgrading its GLONASS constellation, which fell into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Quite apart from military applications, sat nav is now becoming more and more widespread in civil life, and it is argued by some that a loss of service - if the current pace of adoption continues - could soon be economically devastating to developed countries. GPS is particularly significant to the aviation and shipping industries at present, and will be more so as the US moves to GPS-based air traffic control, but ordinary groundbased applications are also growing in popularity.

In Europe, the development of the Galileo system is also seen as a chance to develop high-tech space industry and related user electronics.

All this has plainly not been lost on the overlords of modern China. It now appears that the existing five Beidou satellites, with orbits chosen to provide best coverage mainly over the People's Republic, will be joined by a world-girdling fleet of 30.

The sat nav users of the future will be spoilt for choice, it appears. With more than 100 spacecraft from the GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and Beidou systems in orbit, coverage and accuracy - at least for devices able to use more than one system - should be excellent. ®

*Though there were effective workarounds such as "Differential GPS", in which a fixed ground station - knowing its own location accurately - could work out the GPS error and transmit corrections to a suitably equipped mobile unit in near-real time.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.