As part of its ambitious Hongyun project that was unveiled in September 2016, China announced the successful launch of its first communication satellite on Saturday.
The Hongyun project by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC), is designed to build a space-based communications network that would eventually provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world.
As part of the project, CASIC announced on Saturday that it had launched its first communication satellite on a Long March 11 carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.
China has touted the project as its effort to rival Google and other international firms that have set up their own space-based communications network to provide fast internet connectivity to users in the world’s most remote regions.
Several top players in the industry, including Google, SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat among others, are currently operating such low-cost, high-performance satellite networks to provide space-based communications and internet services.
In a statement featured in China’s state run newspaper, China Daily, the company said that the spacecraft has been “tasked with verifying basic designs of Hongyun satellite and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies.”
Following the launch in northwestern China, Xiang Kaiheng, Hongyun’s chief designer at CASIC Space Engineering Development said in a statement, “Weighing 247 kilograms, the satellite works in a sun-synchronous orbit about 1,100 kilometers above earth. It is powered by solar arrays and has a design life of one year, but is expected to operate longer.”
Commenting on the next phase of the Hongyun project, Kaiheng said that CASIC intends to put over 150 Hongyun satellites on orbits about 1,000 kms above the ground by 2023.
Kaiheng said that while the organization would expand the constellation in response to market demands, Saturday’s first satellite launch will be followed by the launch of four mass-production Hongyun satellites.