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China adds to BeiDou as satnav service helps fight coronavirus

China successfully launched the penultimate Beidou navigation satellite on March 9. An official Xinhuanet news release has not yet been issued, but CGTN — a television station partially funded by the Chinese government — posted a video of the launch.

China launched the new satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province at 19:55 Monday (Beijing Time), paving the way for its completion and full global coverage in May.

The Long March 3B/E rocket lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:55 a.m. ET. The Beidou GEO-2 satellite was sent into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Coronavirus Fight

China has touted the BeiDou constellation’s role in helping the country fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic with high precision from space.

“When China was building the two makeshift hospitals — Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) and Leishenshan (Thunder God Mountain) in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic — equipment based on the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) provided high-precision positioning service and accelerated the construction,” stated a press release from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC).

Drones based on the BDS have been utilized to spray disinfectant, according to the press release. Police in Ruichang, east China’s Jiangxi Province, used BDS-based drones to patrol crowded places to prevent intensive contact between people.

China’s Ministry of Transport sent epidemic prevention and transportation service information to more than 6 million vehicles via the BDS terminals, and provided services for the transportation of emergency materials to the areas most affected by the epidemic.

China Post Group Co. Ltd. has installed 5,000 BDS terminals on its trunk line vehicles, and used the vehicle positioning information to conduct real-time supervision and allocation, so as to ensure timely delivery of epidemic prevention materials.

In Wuhan, the BDS-based robots of the e-commerce and logistics company delivered medical materials to hospital isolation areas with high speed.

China began to construct its navigation system, named after the Chinese term for the Big Dipper constellation, in the 1990s and started serving the Asia-Pacific Region in 2012.

Over the past two years, China has successfully sent 28 BDS-3 satellites and two BDS-2 satellites into orbit.

With the system’s upgraded intelligent operation and maintenance capabilities, the BDS-3 has provided stable and accurate services, boasting a positioning accuracy of better than five meters.

China plans to launch more BDS satellites in March and May to complete the global network.

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