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China-made satellite eyes chemical transport
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China has begun use of a domestically-developed monitoring system to oversee dangerous chemical transport based on the country's Beidou satellite, its management center announced on Thursday.

The system provides all-day data on dangerous chemical transport to the Beidou navigation satellite, which in turn gives corresponding operational order, according to experts who researched and developed the system.

"This signals new progress in civilian use of the Chinese satellite navigation system, and is a prominent stride toward a stage of large-scale civilian application," the center said.

Scores of sensors, equipped on every vehicle transporting dangerous chemicals, collect data and information from the vehicle as well as the road conditions.

Statistics revealed the country currently has more than 110,000 vehicles transporting dangerous chemicals.

"Various accidents have occurred frequently during such transportation in recent years. Enough attention should be given to such hidden dangers (threatening the public)," experts said.

The monitoring system, which oversees the entire transport process, can greatly reduce accidents and enhances a scientific and intelligent management of dangerous chemical transport, they said.

According to the center, the development of the system has two periods -- monitoring capacity of the first period covering 10,000 vehicles, and the second, where the capacity exceeds 100,000.

The system not only offers domestic security services, but covers surrounding countries and regions as well.

Newspaper reports said that all the information is stored in a black box and transmitted to the satellite; corresponding operational signals are then sent to the land control center.

"For example, when a vehicle is involved in a traffic accident, the land control center can call the police and give timely rescue after it gets orders from the satellite," a report said.

"The whole process, from the accident occurring to the information sent to the land control center, only takes 0.01 second. This is much more advanced and less time-consuming than the monitoring system assisted by traditional GPS."

The system can even monitor whether the driver is impaired, the report said, saying censors installed in the driving cab can detect alcohol levels.

"If it's beyond the limit, the control center will cut off the fuel-supply to avoid drunk driving," it added.

China launched its fourth Beidou, or "Big Dipper", navigation satellite on Feb. 3 last year to provide all-weather and all-day navigation and positioning information. The previous three were put into space on Oct. 31, 2000, Dec. 21, 2000 and May 25, 2003, respectively.

Experts said China is establishing the Compass Navigation Satellite System on the basis of the Beidou system. The compass system, this year, will fully meet the demand of satellite navigation for clients in China and neighboring regions.

Beidou will also be used in guiding traffic and monitoring sports venues during the Beijing Olympic Games in August this year, according to Ran Chengqi, China Satellite Navigation Engineering Center deputy director.

Consisting of five positioning satellites orbiting the Earth, Beidou will help alleviate traffic problems during the Games by providing detailed positioning information to individual drivers, Ran said, adding it will be compatible to the prevailing GPS while serving for the Olympics.

Besides specific use for the Olympics and transport, the system will also benefit wider applications from fishery, mining, wildfire surveillance, disaster forecast to telecom, among others.

(Xinhua News Agency January 18, 2008)

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