Chinese satellite manufacturer Galaxy Space, in collaboration with several scientific research institutions, recently participated in the inaugural open-sea testing of China’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. This groundbreaking endeavor aims to establish a formidable LEO network that can rival services like SpaceX’s Starlink and provide global internet coverage. With ambitious plans to deploy a 13,000-satellite constellation, China aims to assert its dominance in internet services, potentially impacting the plans of international satellite operators.

Transitioning to Low Earth Orbit: China’s satellite operator, Satcom, historically focused on local needs and relied on geostationary satellites. However, as it seeks to expand its global presence, Satcom is now transitioning to low Earth orbit satellites. By utilizing the Long March 5B heavy lift-off vehicle and Yuanzheng-2 second-stage propulsion technology, China plans to deploy satellites in LEO, enabling broader coverage and competitive internet services on a global scale. This strategic move positions China to compete with other leading satellite providers.

Project Leadership and Partnerships: The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites (IAMCAS), an agency under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, lead the satellite constellation project. IAMCAS has been tasked with launching 30 satellites by the end of the year, receiving support from companies like Galaxy Space, which has already deployed satellites in LEO. GalaxySpace previously launched six satellites, including a broadband communication satellite, as part of the country’s first LEO broadband communication test constellation.

Testing in the South China Sea: Recent testing of the LEO satellite constellation took place in the South China Sea. Researchers aimed to verify communication capabilities between the LEO satellites and those positioned in high Earth orbits, incorporating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The “Dian Ke No.1” test ship served as the testing platform, although specific details regarding the achievements of the testing have not been disclosed by the involved agencies.

Expanding Space Missions and Concerns: China has significantly increased its space missions, quadrupling the number compared to the previous decade. In 2022 alone, the country conducted 60 launches, including the highly publicized launch of a mysterious spaceplane. Over the next five to ten years, China plans to deploy its extensive low-Earth satellite network. However, astronomers express concerns about potential interference from these satellites on research observations. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also expected to deploy a large number of satellites during the same period, raising further concerns among astronomers.

Conclusion: China’s successful open-sea testing of its low Earth orbit satellite constellation marks a significant milestone in the country’s pursuit of global internet coverage. With plans to establish a massive satellite network in the coming years, China aims to compete with other prominent satellite operators. As the project progresses, concerns regarding potential interference with astronomical observations will need to be addressed. The evolution of China’s satellite program demonstrates the country’s commitment to advancing space exploration and its growing influence in the global space industry.

By Impact Lab