China and Russia have agreed to build satellite ground stations on each other’s soil to improve how their global navigation systems work together, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Russia and China a contract signed at a regular meeting on satellite navigation, GLONASS stations will be installed in three Chinese cities: Changchun in the northeast, Urumqi in the northwest and Shanghai in the east.
BeiDou stations will be built in Obninsk in western Russia, Irkutsk in eastern Siberia and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Russian Far East.
“The simultaneous use of Russian and Chinese systems – GLONASS and BeiDou – will improve the accuracy and reliability of navigation,” Roscosmos chief Yury Borisov said.
“This is why we are sincerely interested in expanding cooperation on the use of GLONASS and BeiDou systems, as well as navigation technologies based on them.”
The statement on the meeting released by BeiDou’s operators did not mention the details of the agreement.
China launched its BeiDou programme in the 1990s amid concerns that its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would be vulnerable without a satellite navigation alternative to the global positioning system (GPS), which is owned by the US government and operated by the US Air Force and Space Force.
The Chinese military uses the BeiDou system for guided weapons eliminating concerns that an adversary could deny access to other navigational networks such as GPS.
Beijing has sought to use in its belt and road initiative (BRI) an ambitious plan to grow global trade, to expand BeiDou’s reach through products with chips that support the navigation system.
The Russian and Chinese systems arrived on the scene later than GPS. BeiDou only attained global coverage in 2020, when the final satellite of the project’s third phase went into orbit.
Tuesday’s meeting was not the first time the operators of GLONASS and BeiDou signed agreements to boost the systems’ capabilities and harmonise technical standards.
Moscow and Beijing have pledged to cooperate on the compatibility and interoperability of BeiDou and GLONASS, and experts said the new agreement was part of these efforts.
In February, they signed a deal to ensure the systems complement each other in how they measure time, allowing users to tell time precisely without an atomic clock.
In 2018, Moscow and Beijing pledged to cooperate on the development of BeiDou and GLONASS for peaceful purposes. Roscosmos has installed monitoring stations in Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua and Antarctica to improve coverage in the southern hemisphere.
BeiDou and GLONASS also work in tandem to improve coverage and accuracy when used in Russia and China.