China to launch 300 satellites to provide worldwide low-orbit communications
China on July 16, 2018 announced its plans to launch 300 low-orbit satellites to provide worldwide communication services.
This 300-satellite array is named as the ‘Hongyan Constellation’. Hongyan stands for 'wild goose'; in ancient China, geese were used to deliver messages.
The first satellite in the Hongyan constellation will be launched by the end of 2018 itself.
• The Hongyan constellation is composed of more than 300 satellites, along with data processing centers, and will be built in three stages.
• The satellite data collection function of the series of satellites will provide energy and engineering companies with services including management of global assets, personnel positioning, emergency rescue and communication services.
• Its satellite data exchange function will provide two-way, real-time data transmission globally, as well as other multimedia data services.
• Once completed, the satellite communication network will take the place of the ground-based network and will allow a mobile phone to be connected everywhere on the planet, either in a remote desert or at sea.
• The new constellation will be the first group of low-orbit communication satellites by China and will enable the country to better guide disaster rescue efforts.
China has already undertaken the development of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) against America’s Global Positioning System, (GPS). Besides rivaling GPS, China uses BDS for its military applications to avoid dependence on GPS.
Low-orbit satellites and Why China’s aerospace companies were unsure to invest in this technology?
Low-orbit satellites have stronger signals and a shorter signal delay than synchronous orbit satellites, which are 36,000 km above the equator.
The coverage of a single low-orbit satellite is limited and requires more satellites to cover wider areas. The technology can be applied to multiple fields including civil and military use.
However, a number of China’s aerospace companies have decided not to invest in the development of satellite systems as they worry about high costs and remain uncertain of the commercial use of the technology.
• Apart from this, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Limited is also planning to launch an array of low-orbit satellites called Xingyun project.
• The Xingyun plan envisages a network of 156 mini-satellites orbiting at around 1000 kilometres above the Earth and is slated to be completed by the end of 2025.