Over the next three years, China will launch its first, commercial, low-orbit satellites system, designed to collect real-time data for industries including the heavy machinery and logistics sectors, according to the company behind it as related to readers in an article at China Daily—Africa.
Beijing-based private company Commsat Technology Development Co. Ltd. said that from 2018 to 2020 the firm will position 60 satellites at six different orbits approximately 600 kilometers above the Earth. Testing has been finished according to the firm and Commsat has applied for relevant communication bandwidths and orbit positions at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's radio communication office.
The group said approval is expected to be received by early next year,and then the company will apply for additional approval from the International Telecommunication Union. Ultimately, Commsat plans to deploy more than 800 such satellites. Currently, there are about 300 to 400 low trajectory satellites orbiting the Earth, launched mostly by U.S. and European aerospace manufacturers. Unlike high orbit satellites — positioned more than 20,000 kilometers above the earth and mainly used for mobile phones and GPS — the low-orbit satellites will function for those industries with a less intensive demand for information.
In the meantime, Commsat said discussions are underway with major local heavy machinery companies, container groups, as well as other industries, including the maritime and forest conservation sectors, to expand the number of potential applications for its satellites.
The 60 satellites will cost an estimated 1.5 billion yuan ($220 million) and the company has completed three rounds of financing, with investors including CITIC Securities and other equity funds. Commsat CEO Xie Tao said he plans to establish some of the satellite ground stations in countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative and provide them services at low prices. He said users could share data or keep it confidential, depending on their preferences.
Last year, the U.S. accounted for 47 percent of total revenues generated by the global commercial satellite launching market, driven largely by SpaceX. Analysts say that SpaceX and European aerospace manufacturer Arianespace have effectively created a satellite duopoly in space.
In China, the satellite space industry was originally a defense industry, but military satellites had limited commercial value. The Chinese government has subsequently pushed the integration of military and civilian aerospace sectors forward and the nation's space industry has gradually developed more commercial technologies, products and services. According to a white paper released by the State Council in December last year, the government aims to encourage private capital to enter the commercial aerospace sector, as well as operate satellites and be involved in aerospace research and build infrastructure in space. Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the China National Space Administration, said commercial aerospace has become a new hot spot in the global economy and the industry is expanding at unprecedented pace.
Meanwhile, Commsat said that a low-orbit entertainment satellite, to be launched by the end of this year or early next year, will be equipped with a special high-tech camera to transmit pictures to Earth. It said customers will be able to download an app, which will then allow them run real-time space pictures on their photo backgrounds with the help of the satellite camera. In May, China's leading bicycle-sharing service ofo said it would invest in the entertainment satellite and it is looking at launching some exciting applications for its users, including enabling riders to make so-called space selfies.