Officials in China’s are preparing to send a series of satellites into space starting in 2019 in order to keep track of “every reef and ship” within the waters of the South China Sea, to offer “accurate and quick response” in emergency situations.

In total, 10 satellites will be launched into low-Earth orbit by the end of 2021. According to the Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, the first three Hainan-1 optical satellites will be sent off into orbit sometime during the second half of 2019.

Later they will be followed by three more Hainan-1 satellites and two Sanya-1 multi-spectral remote-sensing satellites in 2020. The final two, both Sansha-1 synthetic aperture radar satellites, will go up in 2021.

The combination of cameras and automatic identification systems will allow China to detect and track ships sailing in the South China SeaCameras on the Hainan-1 satellites will be able to monitor large and mid-sized ships, while the Sanya-1s will assess water conditions, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Sansha-1 satellites will offer all-weather, high definition monitoring. Although the program is expected to offer aid in weather tracking and emergency situations, the project will also play a role in China’s national defense. The technology will aid Beijing in negotiating the demarcation of the disputed waters.

Map showing countries' claims in the South China Sea.

The resource-rich waters have been involved in a longstanding dispute, as countries including China, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have picked apart the sea and claimed territories for themselves.

We expect PRC’s military development and coercion to be met more head on by other interested parties such as the USA, Australia, India and the Europeans.

In 2016, a Hague-based arbitration tribunal ruled that China had no legal basis for claiming historic rights over areas falling within the so-called “nine-dash line”, a questionable demarcation line Beijing uses to claim parts of the South China Sea.

Beijing refuses to recognize the verdict and says the matter be resolved through negotiations with other countries that border the South China Sea.

Sputnik / ABC Flash Point Space News 2018.

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