China wants to launch a global competitor to the satellite mega-constellations proposed by OneWeb and Elon Musk’s Starlink system.
The Hongyan system now calls for 864 satellites as part of what could be an even-larger national satellite Internet scheme. The satellites are intended to orbit at 1175 kms high and carry in total a potential 8 Terabytes of data throughput.
The first test satellite is already in orbit having been launched a year ago and at the time was said to be the precursor of a 9-satellite debut system but as part of an overall 320 satellite plan. That scheme has now reportedly been expanded to 864 craft, with an initial service in operation by 2022.
The satellites are currently being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which is the Chinese space programme’s main contractor.
According to SpaceTech Asia, the Hongyan constellation will be operated by state-owned smallsat manufacturer Aerospace Dongfanghong, which has created a new division for this purpose. When the constellation is complete, China hopes to provide mobile connectivity to 2 million users, broadband connectivity to 200,000 users, and IoT connectivity to 10 million users, both within China and in the Belt and Road countries. The constellation will also support China’s 5G network, by connecting the constellation directly with 5G base stations for lower latency.