Designers of China's Beidou Navigation Satellite System will keep upgrading software on Beidou satellites to improve their capabilities and maintain technological advantages, according to a key figure in this program.
Lin Baojun, a chief designer of Beidou's third-generation satellite, said at a news conference on Monday in Beijing that once a satellite is launched, it is virtually impossible for its hardware to be modified, so designers and engineers need to optimize its operating system and inject new functions into the spacecraft on a regular basis.
"This is like what we do with our mobile phones – we download a new app to give the phone more functions," said the designer from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Innovation Academy for Microsatellites. "With this method, our satellites will be able to receive regular improvement in orbit."
In fact, designers have developed and given as more advanced technologies as possible to Beidou satellites at the research and development stage in hopes that they would be capable of handling new tasks as long as possible, according to him.
Usually, a satellite will employ no more than 30 percent of new technologies to guarantee low technical risks, but in some Beidou satellites, as much as 70 percent of their technologies had been new to such spacecraft.
Innovation has also been widely applied to Beidou, Lin noted, saying the phased array inter-satellite link is a good example of researchers' creativity as the technology was invented by them to solve a major difficulty in tracking and controlling Beidou satellites.
Beidou is the country's largest space-based system and one of four global navigation networks, along with the United States' GPS, Russia's GLONASS and the European Union's Galileo.
In late June, the final satellite to complete Beidou's third-generation network was lifted by a Long March 3B carrier rocket at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province and was placed into a geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometers above the Earth.
After in-orbit tests over the past month, the satellite, the 30th in the third-generation series, has recently started its formal operations.
Since 2000, a total of 59 Beidou satellites, including the first four experimental ones, have been launched from Xichang on 44 Long March 3-series rockets, with some of them having retired. Most of currently operational Beidou satellites are of the third-generation series.
On Friday, President Xi Jinping announced that Beidou has been completed and started providing full-scale global services.