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China-Russia Strategic Navigation Satellite Cooperation; By Vithiyapathy Purushothaman

Image Courtesy: Viasat

Article 01/2020

According to the agreement reached by China and Russia on satellite navigation cooperation, China’s Beidou and Russia’s GLONASS will achieve compatibility and interoperability.

On July 26, 2019, Russia has legally approved to set forth cooperation between China and Russia on the peaceful use of Beidou and GLONASS. The legal framework recognized the intergovernmental satellite navigation cooperation which was established on November 07, 2018. During the 23rd regular meeting of China and Russia, Premier Li Keqiang and Premier Dmitry Medvedev inked a series of accords to preserve a multilateral global trading and investment regime. The cooperation is focused to develop the standards for the control and management of traffic flows across the Chinese-Russian border.

Further, it determines to develop application and joint Research and Development on GNSS chips. The border between both states is stretching for around 4,200 kilometers to become the sixth-longest international border in the world. On the other side, it is to be mentioned that China and Russia have ended its decades’ long border dispute in 2008. Therefore, this legal framework will provide space for both nations to develop and manufacture the civil navigation equipment for BeiDou and GLONASS that rivals to the US-owned GPS and Europe’s Galileo network.[i] Notably, GLONASS has 24 satellites and BeiDou has 35 satellites orbiting for providing the navigation service, while GPS and Galileo have 32 and 30 satellites, respectively.

Beidou -3 Global Navigation System

BeiDou or BDS has been autonomously built and operated by PRC to fulfil the requirements of National Security, economy and social development. Unlike other celestial navigational systems, BDS provides all-weather, all-time, high accuracy PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) for global users. Since GPS satellites owned by the United States was the leading location data provider which makes the Chinese government feel uncomfortable thus it developed its alternative celestial navigation system to enjoy its autonomous. Since 2000, China has launched 53 BeiDou satellites; it includes both prototypes and older generation spacecraft which is no longer in operation. Since 2015, China began sending its third-generation equipment into orbit. It is trialling the third-generation gear to offer planet-wide services by connecting 35 BeiDou satellites by 2020 to provide global service.[i] The December 16, 2019 launch of two BeiDou navigation satellites marked 32nd China orbital launch attempt of the year. Thus, it attained the full capacity for global service. The global BeiDou system includes 24 satellites which have its wing along the three orbital planes in Medium Earth Orbit. BeiDou didn’t stop there it also intended to provide data service to its neighbouring countries. BeiDou bags in the ambition list of President Xi Jinping to gain global leadership in next-generation technology. BeiDou has targeted to achieve more than 40 operational satellites by 2020 to increase its accuracy. Thus, Beidou is seen as China’s ambitious campaign to displace the western dominance in aerospace. It is expected to achieve 1m accuracy or less using ground support system. Notably, in the November 5th letter to a United Nations committee on satellite navigation, President Xi Jinping mentioned that “The BeiDou system has become one of the great achievements in China’s 40 years of reform,[ii] Remarkably, on December 27th, 2019 BeiDou Satellite Navigation System-3 marked its first anniversary for providing global services.

GLONASS-Beidou Cooperation

According to the Sino-Russian joint test report 2018 published by CSNO-TARC (Test assessment Research Center of China Satellite Navigation Office), the joint testing work was organized since 2017. It verifies the service performance of Beidou and GLONASS. The cooperation was focused in the field of Monitoring and Assessment. Mutual exchange of support has begun in 2015. Both Nations exchanged information to support each other’s monitoring and assessment. Notably, since 2017 the two parties have carried out GNSS service performance evaluation work along “Belt and Road”.

  1. GEO – Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, IGSO – Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit,

  2. MEO – Medium Earth Orbit,

  3. FDMA – Frequency Division Multiple Access

The data of the satellites were utilized for short message communication, search and rescue services and SBAS, PPP services in Asia- Pacific region. The test carried out has assessed the number of visible satellites to the user, dilution of precision, positioning accuracy using GNSS-DSPAS (GNSS Dynamic Service Performance Assessment System). The test equipment is capable of collecting GNSS data in both static and dynamic way to evaluate the service performance at a fixed place. The GNSS test equipment was integrated with GNSS antenna, GNSS high-precision measurement receiver, control and display terminal, network connection and power supply. Notably, GNSS test equipment was developed by CSNO-TARC.

It is noted that during the test journey on 21 November 2018 – 22 November 2018 through the routes of Urumqi – Horgos to Urumqi, Xinjiang there were 5 to 12 BDS satellites visible with an average of 10 and about 4 to 9 satellites of GLONASS were visible with an average of seven satellites. Positioning accuracy of BDS was reported to an average of 95% accuracy which met the performance standard of BDS Version 2.0.

International Committee on GNSS

From early 2000, bilateral meetings were held to discuss GNSS signal interoperability between GPS and GLONASS or GLONASS and Galileo. It was then promoted from bilateral to multilateral in 2005 when the International Committee on GNSS was formed by the United Nations (UN). Thus, according to the resolution 61/111 established in UN General Assembly the first ICG meeting was held in 2006 which brought GNSS service providers and also the nation that thrives towards GNSS program. Due to the success of the 1st meeting which recognized the associate members and observers, the 2nd ICG meeting was aimed to promote greater interoperability among future GNSS provider. Frequently, the 3rd meeting was held in 2008 that focused on pursuit interoperable multi-GNSS capabilities to support high altitude space users. Therefore, based on the recommendations/suggestions the emerging GNSS providers such as Russia’s GLONASS, Japan’s QZQQ, China’s BeiDou and India’s NAVIC had adopted its interoperable capacity to fulfill the future space cooperation.

(Mr. Vithiyapathy Purushothaman, Ph.D. scholar, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), Hefei, PRC, Former Research Officer, C3S; and Associate Member, C3S.)


[1] “Agreement on China-Russia Intergovernmental Cooperation on Satellite Navigation of Signed in Beijing”. BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, July 11, 2019,

[1] The Geospatial Network, “Russia passes law on Glonass-BeiDou cooperation “, The Geospatial, August 3, 2019,

[1] “Unistrong Shares Climb on Plans for Beidou-Based Railway Tech”, Yicai Global, July 17, 2019,

[1] “China is building Beidou, a $12 billion rival to the American-run GPS”, The Strait Times, November 26, 2018,

[1] Zhang Tinting, “BeiDou Navigation Satellite System celebrates 1-year of global services”’, CGTN, December 28, 2019,

[1]  CSNO-TARC, “2018 BDS & GLONASS Service Performance Joint Test Report”, CSNO-TARC, January 2019,

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