China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp plans to build a global real-time communications satellite network by 2020, a senior company executive said.
Sun Weigang, chief engineer at the State-owned space giant, said the Hongyan satellite system will be composed of 60 small satellites operating in low orbits and 20 ground stations around the world.
The system will provide a wide range of civilian services such as ground data collection and exchange, ship identification and tracking, mobile broadcasting as well as navigation signal enhancement, he said.
Its automatic ship identification system will receive information from ships around the globe and help monitor their situation. The mobile broadcasting function will be able to transmit audio, video, images and other data. The navigation signal enhancement devices carried by Hongyan satellites will improve the Beidou Navigation Satellite System’s positioning accuracy.
“Once the satellite network is formed, it will benefit a lot of sectors, including marine industries, weather forecasting, transportation, environmental protection, geological survey and disaster prevention and relief,” Sun said when he announced the plan at the Fourth Aerospace Internationalization Forum in Beijing on Dec 9.
The company will also establish several data application centers in foreign nations to boost the use of the Hongyan system, according to Sun.
Though government-backed programs such as manned space exploration and lunar missions still dominate Chinese space scientists’ agenda, they have also started to pay attention to the rapid rise in commercial space activities.
In China, a commercial space activity generally refers to a space mission paid for by an entity other than the Chinese government or military. Earlier reports quoted experts as predicting that by 2020, the market value of commercial space activities in China will reach 30 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) per year.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp founded the commercial space company ChinaRocket Co Ltd in October to tap into the launch market. The new company says it can carry out various launch services with China’s Long March carrier rockets.
Researchers at ChinaRocket are also developing a 10-metric ton reusable spacecraft to ferry three to five travelers to 80 km above the Earth as part of its space tourism package, according to company managers.