Chinese space startup GalaxySpace has launched six Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellites for a small test constellation.
Global Times reports that seven satellites were launched into space from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province over the weekend, aiming to build the nation's first LEO broadband communication test constellation.
Six satellites were produced by Beijing-based start-up GalaxySpace, along with a commercial remote sensing satellite. Each GalaxySpace satellite weighs around 190 kilograms and has a capacity of more than 40 gigabytes per second (Gbps).
The six GalaxySpace satellites, along with a previously-launched test machine from 2020, will form China's first LEO broadband communication test constellation. The aim is to build a satellite-ground fusion 5G test network, codenamed "Mini-Spider Constellation," capable of providing communication services for more than 30 minutes each time. The constellation is eventually due to reach 144 satellites.
The satellites will verify the networking technology and service capability of the LEO internet constellation. The satellites are also carrying remote-sensing technology, which is also being tested on the six recently-launched machines.
Founded in 2016, GalaxySpace has raised at least $14.5million and is reportedly valued at 8 billion yuan ($1.2 billion). Investors include Nantong Economic & Technological Development Zone Holding Group Co. Ltd., Chaos Investment, Matrix Partners China, the CICC Infrastructure Fund, Shunwei Capital, and 5Y Capital. The company eventually plans to manufacture around 200-500 satellites per year.
While China’s current commercial satellite industry isn’t as mature as that of the US, the country is looking to catch up quickly. China plans a number of state-owned LEO satellite constellations that would number in the low hundreds. Some private enterprises in the country plan to launch much larger constellations that could number in the thousands. Though as DCD has previously noted, the rampant growth of LEO satellites globally without proper oversight and governance could pose a potential threat to space sustainability.
Last month the European Commission approved plans to build its own €6 billion ($6.8bn) LEO satellite constellation to provide broadband services. First announced in 2021, the EU has now formally introduced legislation to establish a secure connectivity satellite constellation that would serve European governments and citizens.
“As far as this new constellation is concerned, this is our Galileo moment, in you like, in terms of connectivity,” said Thierry Breton, E.U. commissioner for the internal market, whose portfolio includes space, at a press conference, comparing the constellation to the E.U.’s Galileo satellite navigation system and Copernicus family of Earth observation satellites.
SpaceNews notes, however, that an “impact assessment” of the system twice received a negative opinion from the commission’s Regulatory Scrutiny Board, which could pose a potential barrier to roll-out. Current plans suggest that limited services from the constellation would begin as early as 2024, but full services would not be available until 2027.