BeiDou Navigation System

BeiDou Navigation System

China moved a step closer to its dream of building a satellite navigation system that could challenge America’s Global Positioning System (GPS) with the launch of two new BeiDou-3 satellites in November.

• The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is a Chinese satellite navigation system.
• The current launch means that a total of 19 BeiDou-3 satellites are now in orbit – enough to start providing basic navigation services when testing is complete.
• By 2020 the system will be expanded to a network of 35 satellites – enough to provide a global navigation and communications system, which could rival the dominance of America’s GPS.
• BeiDou also has potential for increase export of goods and services and enhance China’s foreign trade under China’s Belt and Road initiative.


• China is trying to cut its dependence on the American-owned GPS amid heightening tensions between the two countries.
• Many private companies which make semiconductors (Qualcomm), electric vehicles and airplanes have already started modifying their products to connect with Beidou
in order to keep doing business in the second-biggest economy.

Other Satellite Navigation Systems

• Initiated in 1978 and achieved global coverage in 1995.
• Owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force.
• It consists of 24 to 32 medium Earth orbit satellites in six different orbital planes.
• GPS typically provides positioning accuracies of under 2.2 meters, which can be improved to as low as a few centimeters with the use of augmentation systems.


• Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) is operated by Roscosmos, a state corporation responsible for the space flight and cosmonautics program for the Russian Federation.
• Initiated in 1982 and achieved global coverage in 1996, and again in 2011 (after the system had fallen into disrepair).
• GLONASS has full global coverage with 24 satellites.
• GLONASS provides positioning accuracies of 2.8 meters.

• The European Space Agency’s Galileo system, initiated in 2005 and projected to provide global coverage by 2020 with 30 satellites.
• Galileo is expected to be compatible with the modernized GPS system.
• The receivers will be able to combine the signals from both Galileo and GPS satellites to greatly increase the accuracy.

• The NAVIC or NAVigation with Indian Constellation is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system developed by ISRO.
• It consists of a constellation of 7 navigational satellites. 3 of the satellites will be placed in the Geostationary orbit (GEO) and the remaining 4 in the Geosynchronous orbit (GSO).
• It is intended to provide an all-weather absolute position accuracy of better than 7.6 meters throughout India and within a region extending approximately 1,500 km around it.

• The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a project of the Japanese government
• It is a four-satellite regional time transfer system and enhancement for GPS covering
Japan and the Asia-Oceania regions.
• QZSS services are available on a trial basis since January 2018.