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China Launches its Own GPS Satellites

by John Reed on December 29, 2011

In case you haven’t noticed, China just put its very own GPS network into service. Dubbed the Beidou system, it recently went active, providing positioning, navigation and timing services to Asian users.

Its not nearly as advanced or robust as the United States’ GPS II system, yet. China is investing heavily in space tech and this year it overtook the U.S. in number of space launches. Beijing rightly sees space tech, particularly systems like GPS and satellite comms as critical to operating on a global scale, in both military and economic terms.

While Chinese officials say the  Beidou system is meant for civilian purposes, it’s obvious that the system — planned to consist of 35 satellites by 2020 — will free China from a reliance on U.S. GPS tech. I’ve got to wonder, how much of China’s GPS tech was developed from espionage against the U.S. system?

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Pacific December 29, 2011 at 11:43 am
sorachart December 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hey Nick 87% is still an -A pretty damn good.


elportonative77 December 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I think 87% is a B+. You need at least a 90 to get an A.


Zain s December 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm

i hope Ron Paul wins or china is gonna be a hyperpower soon…


Dr. Grzlickson December 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I didn't realize Ron Paul was an economics expert.


iknotno December 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Actually he is..


TH1 December 29, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Sorry Zain, but in my opinion Ron Paul would make the second worst president we could have in 2012 (Obama being the first) in terms of protecting the US and putting this country in a position to remain the world's superpower.

Reagan – Peace through Strength = worked!
Obama – 'hope' for peace through 'apologizing' = setting us up for failure.
Ron Paul – 'hope' for peace through 'doing nothing' = suicide.


LanceKant December 30, 2011 at 11:06 am

Hate to burst your bubble, but Reagan's policies were fine for the Cold War world, not now, when our biggest military rival also happens to be our biggest economic counterpart.


Dfens December 31, 2011 at 1:11 am

F China! Getting into a trade war with them would instantly erase $300 billion of our foreign debt, and put the brakes on runaway federal spending by taking away their biggest lender. Hell, if we stopped all foreign trade we'd put a trillion dollars back into our economy. That's a hell of a lot of domestic jobs right there. Of course, we're just a market now. The red, white, and blue doesn't stand for anything now. They're just colors.


hawk eye December 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Text excerpt I : "Its not nearly as advanced or robust as the United States’ GPS II system, yet."

Text excerpt II : "I’ve got to wonder, how much of China’s GPS tech was developed from espionage against the U.S. system?"



brok3n December 29, 2011 at 1:02 pm

It basically looks like the Chinese have read all our 'open source' doctrine and adapted it for their own.


Tad December 29, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I'll bet Chinese rocket scientists read this blog to steal our great ideas.


Lance December 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

If anything else fails a F-15 with a ATSAT missile can deal with one if war came.


Chimp December 30, 2011 at 12:22 am

No, they wouldn't. Basic physics… though I am sure it's feasible to nobble satellites in geostationary orbits using some other method. Thing is, if one side starts that, what's to stop the other side doing the same in retaliation?


Chuck January 2, 2012 at 9:06 am

ASs have a bad tendancy to leave lots of space debris. Most GPS Sats are in LEO, not GEO orbits.


mpower6428 December 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm

too hell with space, we should spent all our money on another needless war. only this time it should be against "Iran". nuclear weapons, oil prices, theocracy… SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE. whats important is that our politicians have well funded campaigns and the military contractors ( job creators) get all the money they could ever hope for, you know… for jobs….

that'll make us stronger.


Black Owl December 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I'm wondering if the Chinese copied the Russian GLONASS system too? They spy on Russia almost as much as they spy on us.


OMEGATALON December 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm

This should be a wakeup call to the Obama Administration and Congress as this is where the $Trillions in US debt goes to, we keep borrowing money and China uses the interest payments to fund their military programs (stealth fighters, new armour vehicles and their own GPS satellites).


Lawrence December 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm

US should learn from the fact , they always advocating human right , world peace but in fact they have taken part most of the warfares in the world , they should look into their internal problem especially the economy and social rather than to hit or launch war to other nations, they have been paying too much attention on military rather than their economy , in fact too much spending on military will have the detriment impact for its people, every citizen of US has to bear the cost, nowadays US already strong enough in their military , no other country in the world can beat them , scale-down spending in military and shifting the attention to the economy I think is the best strategy for US.


nraddin December 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I would say not much honestly. The concepts and technology to operate a GPS like system on the ground could be put together with off the shelf parts by any collage level engineering team. Essentially GPS is a very fast clock and a radio, nothing special. It's cheap fast computing that in the GPS receiver that really makes the magic happen and it's really just an radio receiver, a clock and high-school level geometry machine. Putting it into space is another story but if you have the tech for a comm sat, you can easily engineer and deploy a GPS like system.


PrometheusGoneWild December 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Forget the GPS.
How many US companies have helped the Chinese rocket program?


Enrico December 30, 2011 at 2:27 am

Forget Galileo, I'm damn sure that the Chinese will complete their navigation system before we do…
Anyway I heard that it's been already announced that the military will receive more precise coordinates, like the Americans do with their GPS, how can they claim that it's been built only for civilian purposes?


tribulationtime December 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

additional uses of your own constellation of satellites: A) Disturbing signals B) Kamikaze GPS erasers (usefull as West forces have higher GPS adittion)


Jesus December 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm

95%. That's Chinese technology–made in USA. We all know that China was able to build its arsenal by spying on other more technologically advanced countries like the US. They had been stealing US technology since the Nixon era. Remember double spies like Larry Wu Tai-Chin who forwarded classified documents to his Chinese handlers, and the various agents posing as "students" they sent to institutions like MIT to spy? Now look at the result. China is bullying smaller nations in the South China Sea claiming it is a "Chinese Lake". It is obvious that China is flexing its muscles,and would not hesitate to use force, if they view other nations as a threat, like what they did to Vietnamese vessels a while back.


Hunter78 December 31, 2011 at 5:05 am

The Chinese, like the Russians and the Euros, are building their own system because: 1) they know US will turn off the civilian side of our GPS in the event of major conflict (with anyone, and that's how it was designed); and 2) they all want greater accuracy, mostly for civilian uses, like steering vehicles.


blight December 31, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Yup. It's always good to have your own guidance system. That said, one day civilian users of guidance systems might gain a chip that can access signals from more than one constellation, resulting in robust coverage for all at a low price. And when things hit the fan…well, that's the price of the end of peace.


Whatnow January 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

The difference between the US and China is China does not care about anything but the money. Until we find a way to level the playing field we will have a hard time competing. I have noticed there are cracks in their system. Because the two biggest customer are not buying as much of China’s junk that they stole the technology from China is beginning to hurt also. Many manufactures are finding they make more profit producing their high tech products here because of shipping costs and quality control. When you have to dump a $1million plus run because of poor quality you quit using China. It may have been cheaper to produce but now you can’t sell it.
If want the US to become like China keep buying from them.


ShadowWalker January 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

China must know something about LightSquared that the US doesn't know.


Figo faisal February 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

Man I like this because it's interesting …………!!!!!!!!!


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iknotno December 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Thats funny he's China's candidate… Really then why is both Romney and Gingrich taking money from China's investors owned by the ruling party and Ron Paul takes money from the US military.. Who's side are you on? Were screwed because of brain washed idiots. look in the mirror do some real research and stop listening to television pundents.


Dfens December 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm

And by the way, if you're for the protection of America's industrial might, you'd better hope Trump runs, or practice saying, "do you want fries with that?"


Dfens December 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Or there's always that great American classic, "welcome to Wal Mart!"


Mister Rose December 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm

What minerals are on the lunar surface that we cannot also get to here on earth? The only one I am aware of is helium-3, which is only useful for fusion reactors, which we do not have running yet. And when they do get running, the cost of retrieving fuel from the moon will make that fuel source cost-prohibitive.


iknotno December 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

The fact of the matter is manufacturing in the US is dead and it will rightly be dead as long as Americans don't want chinese wages. These tariffs you want so bad. Where is that money going to go? It will be used to police Americans. Our economic might comes form liberty and opportunities not ternary. Your strategy which is just a collection of fragmented ideas based on a false reality was feed to you. I am aware of it. Your understanding is ridiculously incongruent with reality. All that money you want to waste dilutes the US from a core to a semi-periphery state. Why do you think we have all these FEMA camps. Why is Homeland security telling KBR to prepare for a mass immigration. QUIT BEING STUPID WAKE UP


Dfens December 29, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Yeah, my ideas are the same ones that made America a manufacturing super power in the first place. Ron Paul's "ideas" are those of the loser slave owners who couldn't wait to bail out on their nation. Slave owners love low tariffs. Industrialists love high tariffs and a strong nation. That's why the North kicked the South's ass. That's why we kicked the ass of the whole world in WW2, but can't even take on a 3rd world crap hole now. Want fries with that, slave?


Dfens December 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Well, let's see. What did we find out the moon was made of back in the 1960s when we went there? Oh yeah, it's made of the same stuff as the earth. Gee, are there any minerals of value here? Maybe you can think of some? Gold, platinum, copper, rare earth minerals… I mean, I'm not expending a lot of thought here. And no one has ever mined the moon. Hell, some of the first metals used by ancient man were gold and copper that they found laying around the surface of the earth. Plus the aluminum similarly makes up a large percentage of the moon's surface. It is good as both a structural material and a rocket fuel. The question isn't how much imagination it takes to figure out what is valuable on the moon, it is how little imagination does it take to wait for the Chinese to find out first what's there to be exploited?


Matrix3692 December 30, 2011 at 1:24 am

Well, i did recall that the moon is rich in titanium (oxide), which could be used to build spacecrafts(manned or unmanned or exploration) or space structures that are too big or heavy to be launch on earth(moon only has about one-sixth of earth’s gravity and lack an atmosphere that severely limits our launch capacity.
But please correct me if i’m wrong, cause i have read that info a long time ago, and there may have been contradictory info since then.


Dfens December 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Seriously, if you people are so f'ing stupid as to let China exploit the moon's resources first, then you DESERVE TO BE THEIR SLAVES! You are too stupid to be anything else. We went there in the 1960s using damn slide rules and a mission computer that you'd throw away if they gave it to you free with a new checking account now. What an embarrassment this country is today.


Mister Rose December 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm

You said it… the same minerals are here on Earth. The Chinese can exploit it because it costs them much less to do space launch than we do. If we tried to exploit the moon, we'd further bankrupt ourselves because we would not be able to sell the stuff we mine at competitive prices. Heck, we can't even make American silicon wafers at competitive prices, and that is with a terrestrial supply chain.


iknotno December 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm

You think America became a super power because of Taxes. ROFL Well I cant argue With someone who makes up history.


Dfens December 30, 2011 at 1:36 am

Damn straight! The greatest generation gave birth to the metrosexual generation. Let's not upset the multi-national defense corporations by suggesting they actually earn their profits. No, we're to limp for that.


Stratege December 30, 2011 at 2:40 am

Glonass has reached global coverage


Dfens December 31, 2011 at 12:56 am

Right, we have so damn much platinum here, why even bother to go to the moon to get any? I mean, hell, we're rolling in the stuff here, why go anywhere else for it. Genius. Pure f'ing genius. You should work for NASA. What the hell is platinum good for, except to act as a catalyst in fuel cells, maybe. You know, hydrogen oxygen batteries that produce water as a byproduct. Nah, not useful to you. You have that gasoline you love to buy from the Saudis.

And if you don't like how much our rockets cost, why don't you try not paying the aerospace contractors a profit incentive to jack the cost of the rocket up higher? Just a thought. I don't want anyone to hurt themselves doing anything too strenuous here.


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