Compass.jpgTrimble, the Nasdaq-listed US specialist in location-based services, hopes to get a foothold in China's nascent satellite navigation market through a joint venture with the China Aerospace Science & Industry Academy of Information Technology (CASIC-IT).

The 50:50 JV will develop, manufacture and distribute Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers and systems based on the Chinese Compass satellite system for civil applications in the commercial positioning, navigation and timing markets of China.

On April 15, China completed the second successful launch of a satellite in its second-generation Compass fleet, which is designed to transform China's home-grown global positioning system from a regional to a global system. The first-generation Beidou constellation provides only regional coverage over China.

China launched its first second-generation Compass satellite in April 2007 in medium-altitude orbit and the Compass G2 is the first geostationary satellite of the group.

The fleet will eventually include more than 30 satellites in both geostationary and medium-altitude orbits. China may add as many as 10 more spacecraft to the global constellation by the end of 2010, with a goal of filling out a constellation of 30 by 2015 or 2020.

The Compass system can be used in conjunction with the existing and planned satellite positioning systems, including the US GPS, the Russian GLONASS and Europe's Galileo. But once Compass achieves global coverage, it is likely that many Chinese products such as cars, cellphones will come preprogrammed to use Compass rather than the foreign GPS variants.

The Trimble-CASIC-It joint venture will be based in Beijing and is expected to begin operations after regulatory approval from the Chinese government.

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