A new communications satellite network owned by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation will be up and running by 2020. The new network plan was announced at the Fourth Aerospace Internationalization Forum in Beijing in December, 2016. Maritime Executive reports that the satellites, known together as the Hongyan system, will operate globally.
According to China Daily, sixty small satellites will be sent into low orbits and communicate with 20 ground stations in real time. Functions for the new network include civilian services like weather forecasting, emergency rescue and communications, mobile broadcasting, ground data collection and exchange, and personnel positioning for energy and engineering firms. China Aerospace Science and Technology spokespersons expect that marine industries, weather forecasters, transportation companies, environmental protection agencies, geological survey sectors, and disaster agencies could all benefit from this new satellite network.
Operations will also include ship tracking and identification. Its automatic ship identification system (AIS) will receive global ship data, monitor positions and situations, and have the ability to transmit audio, video, and images.
It is expected that the navigation enhancements on the Hongyan equipment will be an upgrade to the BeiDou-2 (BDS) navigation satellite network's accuracy. China's Beidou system, which launched in 2011, has more than 20 satellites covering mostly the Asia-Pacific region. It was originally designed to improve upon the US global positioning system (GPS) and is also known as COMPASS. In 2014 it became part of the World-Wide Radionavigation System (WWRNS).
The current US GPS system provides high precision signals to military users and less precise signals to civilians. The EU's Gallileo system has similar features as do the others that are now active.
There are several global satellite systems operating including the EU's Galileo system (live in 2016 with 18 satellites and expected to be fully operational by 2018 with 24 satellites), the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS), the Japanese Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema GLONASS). Most of these were innovated due to the possibility that the US could deny GPS service for a variety of political reasons. Most earth-based navigation systems are able to utilize signals from more than one system to increase overall locational precision.
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