Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) is set to receive a new global navigation satellite system (GNSS) with the assistance of China. China, who is a strategic partner of Pakistan, will provide satellites similar to the Beidou satellite system currently being deployed as part of China’s indigenous global positioning system.

Rendition of satellite PakSat 1R to be launched by SUPARCO (Credits: Mohammad Amir Patni).

While there are not many details surrounding Pakistan’s system, it is probable that it will resemble the Beidou-1 system.  The first two indigenous Beidou experimental navigation satellites were launched in 2000. The final Beidou-1 constellation consists of four geosynchronous satellites: two operational satellites and two satellites to serve as backups.

In the Beidou scenario, the two-satellite concept achieved similar accuracy to the United States’ GPS, but it did have its drawbacks. On the other hand, it did provide China with an indigenous, independent, high-accuracy military navigation system that could function in any conditions short of total war with a major military power, as well as support military communications.  If this is the course that Pakistan will take, then it will no doubt utilize two of its allotted geosynchronous slots to deploy the system.

SUPARCO touts this new capability for applications in digital map production for road vehicle navigation, public safety and disaster management, mapping and resource positioning, mining and quarrying among others.  However, considering the Bediou-1 system had a regional military capability, it is likely that Pakistan intends to utilize this new potential to bolster its military capability in the region, including against its ongoing geopolitical disputes with neighboring India.

Below, launch of China’s 16th Beidou 2 satellite on October 26, Beidou 2 is expected to be operational in 2020:

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Michael J. Listner

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Michael is an attorney and the founder/principal of Space Law and Policy Solutions, which is a firm that counsels governmental and private organizations on matters relating to space law and policy, including issues surrounding space debris. Michael serves as the Vice-President of Legal Affairs for the International Space Safety Foundation and on January 1, 2013 assumed the role of President and CEO (Interim) for the ISSF. Michael formally served as Space Safety Magazine's Legal and Policy Editor and its General Counsel. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Information Systems from Franklin Pierce University and obtained his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from Regent University School of Law, and he is a member of the New Hampshire Bar. Michael can be contacted at [email protected] Follow Michael on Twitter @ponder68.