China will launch about 30 satellites before the end of 2020 for its domestically developed Beidou Navigation Satellite System, a senior project official said.
Ran Chengqi, director of the China Satellite Navigation Office, told an audience at the Eighth China Satellite Navigation Conference, which opened in Shanghai on Tuesday, that most of the new satellites to be lifted during the coming three and a half years will be third-generation Beidou satellites.
More than 3,000 officials, experts and company representatives from China, the United States, Russia and other nations, as well as international organizations are taking part in the three-day industry conference, one of the largest in the field.
Beidou is the fourth navigation satellite system in the world, following the GPS system in the US, the GLONASS system in Russia and the Galileo system of the European Union.
"We plan to launch six to eight third-generation Beidou satellites to medium Earth orbits this year. In 2018, we will launch about 10 satellites to the same orbits and another to a geostationary orbit," Ran said. "In 2019 and 2020, we will send six third-generation Beidou satellites to medium Earth orbits, three to inclined geosynchronous satellite orbits and two to geostationary orbits."
The third-generation Beidou satellite will be the latest generation in the space-based network. Satellites in this generation will be capable of providing global coverage of positioning and navigation services.
China has launched five experimental satellites since 2015 to test and verify the technologies to be used on the third-generation Beidou satellites. They have now finished in-orbit tests and will soon start positioning and navigation operations, according to earlier reports. The first third-generation Beidou satellite is scheduled to blast off around July, Chinese media have reported.
Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the Beidou system, said compared with current Beidou satellites, the new-generation ones feature better accuracy, stability and signal clarity. They will also have better compatibility with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.
In addition, two second-generation Beidou satellites will be launched in 2018 to improve the system's regional service in the Asia-Pacific region, Ran said.
So far, 23 satellites have been launched for the Beidou network, the first in 2000 and the most recent in June last year. The system began providing positioning, navigation, timing and message services to civilian users in China and parts of the Asia-Pacific region in December 2012.
Most of the shared bicycles in Chinese cities now employ Beidou-based positioning services, Ran said.
More than 4 million taxis, long-distance buses and cargo trucks nationwide have been equipped with Beidou devices. And about 40 percent of smartphones in the Chinese market are able to access the services, he said.