Space: China Builds GPS Lite

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June 9, 2006: China's foray into military space satellites has turned out to be as problematic as their endless attempts at building a nuclear submarine that works. Three years ago, China completed a satellite navigation system called BeiDou. Think of it as GPS light, and different, and not very useful. Sound familiar? BeiDou only covers East Asia, but not all of China. But it covers the areas along the coast, and Taiwan. The BeiDou system is less accurate than GPS, slower, but it does allow two way traffic. This is useful for sending short messages (up to 120 Chinese characters so, about a hundred words). Sort of IM (Instant Messaging) class stuff. The system can only handle a few hundred thousand users, but that would be sufficient for the number of Chinese troops involved in any major operation. BeiDou also suffers some reliability problems, and is apparently very vulnerable to jamming and spoofing. Because of all that, it is believed that BeiDou is just a first generation system. A training system, one where China learns the ins and outs of building satellite navigation systems. No word on when BeiDou 2.0 might appear.

 


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