Leading space contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp will start building the country’s largest satellite constellation this year, with plans to offer communication services to users around the world.
Upon its completion, the Hongyan constellation will consist of more than 320 satellites operating in low-Earth orbits, capable of providing phone call service and broadband internet access to users anywhere on the globe, according to the China Academy of Space Technology, part of CASC.
The major parts in the network — 54 large communication satellites — will be launched before the end of 2023, and then 270 small satellites will be placed in orbits to supplement them. Together they will form a system with global reach, the company said.
Currently, China’s largest satellite network is the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, which has nearly 30 active satellites and will have 35 by the end of 2020, when it will offer global coverage.
Zhang Hongtai, president of the academy, said his academy will launch a satellite this year to demonstrate technologies to be used by the Hongyan network.
“The technology demonstration satellite will work on an orbit about 1,100 kilometers above the ground to verify Hongyan satellite’s compatibility in low orbit as well as its data transmission capacity,” he said.
Next, the academy will launch six Hongyan satellites before 2020 to construct a regional system to test intersatellite data links, Zhang said, adding that when the 54 large satellites — including the six already in orbit — are all in place, they will begin providing phone call service to global users.
When all 270 small satellites are launched and become operational, the Hongyan network will start offering broadband internet access to users, the researcher said, without providing a time frame.
Hongyan will put an end to users’ difficulties in making a phone call or using the internet when they are in a desert or remote mountain areas. The constellation will also help the Beidou system enhance its signal and improve positioning accuracy, according to Zhang.
In addition to the Hongyan network, CASC plans to send a recoverable satellite in the next two years to serve commercial clients who hope to use the satellite for biological or pharmaceutical experiments in space, he said.