One of the difficulties is coping with announcement of new satellite constellations is coming up with a superlative to describe a really large number when describing gigantic plans.
The latest news, that a Chinese organisation wants to put up 300 satellites, each operating in low Earth orbit (LEO) to provide “global communications”, definitely puts the scheme in the ‘super-constellation’ band.
However, the 300 satellites from China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp (CASC) and dubbed Hongyan (translated as Wild Goose) is moving forward very rapidly. The first satellite, according to state news agency Xinhua, will be orbited later this year and the constellation fully completed by 2021. Later this year will see ground terminals tested.
But 300 Chinese satellites are a drop in the orbital arc. Another scheme is for 156 mini-satellites from the Xingyun consortium led by China Great Wall Industry Corp, an affiliate business to CASC, already has its first satellite in orbit and is designed to serve broadband and Internet of Things connectivity.
Other satellite constellations are in advanced stages. They include a couple of ‘mega-constellations’ and each has filed applications for permission with the Federal Communications Commission. OneWeb, for example, will launch its first test satellites later this year.
A report from Northern Sky Research says that China’s ambitions could easily be expanded, and pose a very real threat to the ‘Western’ mega-players and their constellations.