G60, a Shanghai government project, looks set to be China's first low-Earth mass constellation in orbit.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

February 13, 2024

2 Min Read
Picture of a satellite and a satellite dish, with computer code and numbers in the background.
(Source: Klaus Ohlenschlaeger/Alamy Stock Photo)

It looks like the auspicious Year of the Dragon will be the year China's first mass low-Earth constellation finally gets aloft.

China is currently a laggard in the satellite race, despite its big ambitions. US-based Starlink already has some 5,400 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in orbit, while French-owned Eutelsat OneWeb has 630. 

China's national champion, known as Guowang and created by the amalgamation of two state satellite projects, is still stuck on the launchpad. But a Shanghai government effort known as G60 Starlink appears set for lift-off this year.

G60 Starlink, announced last July, will build 1,296 satellites in its initial phase with plans to expand that eventually to 12,000, delivering bandwidth via the Ku, Q and V bands. A test satellite was launched on a Long March 2D rocket and successfully placed into orbit in November.

G60 – named after a highway in the Songjiang district in Shanghai where many of the companies are located – is part of a Shanghai plan to build 600 commercial satellites and 50 rockets annually.

$931 million investment

One of these firms, Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology (SSST), which is building the G60 satellites, has just received 6.7 billion yuan (US$931 million) in first-round funding, mostly from government-owned PE and investment companies. It's the biggest single investment round in China's satellite industry.

In a further boost for China satellite broadband, Geespace, a subsidiary of Geely auto, one of the country's biggest car-makers, just put 11 satellites into orbit via a single launch.

Geespace says it now has 20 satellites in orbit offering integrated communication, navigation and remote sensing services and capable of supporting Geely self-driving cars. The company is planning 72 satellites in orbit by 2025 and ultimately will build out a constellation of 240, Reuters reports.

Securities firm CSC Financial, which also expects G60 Starlink to begin service this year, says China's push into satellite began in April 2020 when the chief economic planning agency NDRC identified the sector as strategic infrastructure.

A year later, the China Satellite Network, usually referred to as Guowang, was formed by the merger of two competing government LEO projects, one by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and the other by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

Guowang's status today is unclear. Judging from the long radio silence and the speed with which it was overtaken by this rival project, its future may not be certain.

However, the space race is first come, first served, and China has already booked the satellite slots. So it will be eager to ensure that Guowang – or some alternative – fills those slots.

Read more about:

Asia

About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like