Researchers from the GalaxySpace, a Beijing-based satellite maker, conducted open-sea testing of the country’s first LEO broadband communication test constellation, as reported by CGTN. The goal of the testing is to verify the coverage ability of high-Earth orbit and LEO satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles. Several scientific research institutions are collaborating with GalaxySpace.
In March of 2022, six satellites produced by GalaxySpace were sent into space from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, as reported by CGTN. One remote sensing satellite and six LEO broadband communication satellites formed the first pilot version of a satellite internet constellation sent into orbit atop a Long March-2C carrier rocket on March 5th of this year. The launch occurred at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province.
Developed by GalaxySpace, the six satellites were sent together with the first broadband communication satellite deployed in low-Earth orbit. They form China’s first LEO broadband communication test constellation.
The LEO broadband communication satellites, each weighing 190 kilograms, will be part of a testing network of satellite internet, nicknamed “Mini-spider Constellation,” the company said. According to CGTN, the seven satellites conform a network to provide uninterrupted low-orbit satellite broadband communication services for more than half an hour at a time.
The Chinese space agency is investing in plate-shaped satellite technology. According to Yang Qiaolong, one of GalaxySpace’s designers, the plate shape allows for the efficient deployment of numerous satellites from a single launch.
China‘s National Space Administration (CNSA) has unveiled plans to deploy a mega-constellation of Internet satellites, known as Guowang, or national network. Comprised of approximately 13,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit, Guowang is China’s answer to SpaceX’s Starlink project.
The launch of this mega-constellation is part of China’s ambitious plans to become the world’s leading space power. CNSA plans manned missions to the Moon around 2030, and later even to Mars.
China is making steady progress in conquering space. Experimentation with plate-shaped satellites and planning for an internet mega-constellation are clear signs of a country that is not only adapting to existing space technologies, but also striving to innovate and lead in this field. This ongoing effort by China has the potential to redefine the space age in the coming decades.
SpaceX providing high-speed internet on all continents
In a tweet in September of last year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that high-speed internet was now available on all seven continents after SpaceX Starlink satellite internet service arrived in Antarctica. The NSF said that they were testing a Starlink dish at SpaceX’s Starlink terminal at McMurdo Station, based on an island off the coast of Antarctica. Scientists with the US Antarctic Program were “over the moon”, the tweet read.
In August of 2022, the telecommunications company T-Mobile announced an agreement with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to provide coverage through the Starlink satellite network in areas without coverage. The connectivity plan is called Coverage Above and Beyond
At an event in Texas, Musk was in charge of making the announcement along with a T-Mobile executive, and explained that the phones will connect directly to the satellite network and will be able to send text messages and photos.
“It won’t have the kind of bandwidth that a Starlink terminal would have, but it will allow texting, pictures and, if there aren’t too many people in the cellular zone, you’ll even be able to watch a little video,” said Musk.
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said he expects the new service to be free on most cellular plans, although there could be a fee for users of low-cost packages. There are about 500,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) in the United States that aren’t covered by any cellular network, Sievert said.
According to specialized media, the network has more than 250,000 users worldwide, including the Government of Ukraine, to which SpaceX has sent two shipments of terminals to provide Internet access during the Russian invasion. SpaceX has permission to launch 12,000 satellites, but is seeking approval to deploy up to 30,000 more.