China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, the nation’s largest missile-maker, will launch a test satellite this year as part of an effort to build a vast space-based communications network capable of covering the entire globe with broadband internet service.
Lyu Dongming, chairman of CASIC Space Engineering Development Co, said on April 26 in Wuhan, Hubei province, that a satellite will be launched into low-Earth orbit before the end of this year to demonstrate the low-orbit broadband communication technology to be used in the Hongyun satellite family.
Lyu’s company was established in December as a subsidiary of the CASIC Second Academy. It is tasked with the research, design and production of small, low-orbiting satellites and new-generation cargo spacecraft. It is also responsible for marketing its satellites’ broadband communications services.
The satellite to be launched this year was built at the company’s research and production complex in Beijing and is undergoing extensive tests there, Lyu said.
A vice-president of CASIC Space Engineering Development, who asked to be identified as Bei, said the satellite has a liftoff weight of 260 kilograms and is designed to last a year. It will carry Ka-band transponders and transmission antennas and will be powered by solar arrays.
Lifted into orbit by a Kuaizhou 11 solid-fuel rocket, also made by CASIC, the satellite will be used to verify the company’s technology to transmit large quantities of data between low-orbiting communications satellites and users on the ground.
The company has begun work on four Hongyun satellites, which are designed for mass production and are expected to be in orbit before the end of 2020. Together, they will form a small network for Hongyun’s trial run, Lyu said. The Hongyun project, initiated by CASIC in September 2016, aims to build a space-based communications network of 156 small satellites in orbits about 1,000 kilometers above the ground that will become operational around 2025.
“After the constellation of satellites takes shape, users who pay will be able to make calls and connect to the internet anywhere in the world via a portable device,” Bei said, noting that access to telecommunication and the internet are generally unavailable in deserts, on small islands and in polar regions.
He said the system will feature lower production and operational costs and lower occurrence of data transmission delays compared with existing communications satellite networks.
Zhang Zhongyang, president of the CASIC Second Academy, said Hongyun will enable users to enjoy broadband internet service whether they are in the desert, on the ocean or aboard an airliner.