China launches an ambitious challenge to Starlink. The first group of satellites will be launched into orbit this year.
The Chinese military industry is preparing to begin construction in very low Earth orbit (150-300 km from Earth) of the first group of its satellites called LEO. Some of the satellites will be launched as early as September 2023, SpaceNews reports.
Artificial intelligence system initially intended for environmental monitoring and observation of the earth’s surface, prevention of natural disasters, as well as control of traffic flows.
However, with a growing backdrop of strained ties with Washington and export controls that have denied Chinese firms access to some advanced computing chips, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for technological self-sufficiency in all areas. It’s also worth considering that China remains largely closed to foreign satellite broadband providers.
State-owned satellite operator China Satcom has little influence on the world stage and is mainly focused on serving domestic needs from geostationary orbit (GEO). The operator has capacity in South and Southeast Asia, as well as in the Middle East, Africa and in partnership with Belarus. With the strengthening of the LEO satellite constellation, the importance of China’s role in the field of international satellite communications is expected to change in the next 5-10 years.
China’s ambitious plans
The first information about the development of China’s own satellite system appeared in 2019. The artificial intelligence satellite group is named Leo after the constellation Leo. Then it was planned that it would include 192 spacecraft of the Yaogan series.
In 2020, the state-owned China Satellite Network Group Corp announced China’s massive plans to build nearly 13,000 LEOs to compete with US-based Starlink, but so far progress has been slow, according to Forbes.
Now, according to analysts, there are no more than a few hundred LEO satellites operating in China, and by 2027 their number could reach 4,000.
Spacecraft and rocket manufacturer China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC) announces the launch of the first LEO satellites from a planned group in September this year. The number of satellites that will be deployed in orbit is still unknown.
Reuters notes that LEO satellites have the added benefit of being cheaper and more efficient than satellites in higher orbits.
Currently, US-based Starlink, run by billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX Corporation, has a rapidly growing network of more than 3,500 satellites in low Earth orbit and plans to add tens of thousands more satellites to its system. More than million subscribers around the world.
According to Focus, in May last year, Chinese researchers proposed creating a weapon to destroy satellites of the Starlink project.
Today it became known that the European Commission voted for the introduction of more than 170 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide reliable communications for all of Europe as early as 2027.
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