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China Firm Files Plans For 10,000 Satellite Constellation

Shanghai Lanjian Hongqing Technology Company, also known as Hongqing Technology, has filed a notification with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for a new satellite constellation.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed May 29 2024Written by Zac Aubert

Shanghai Lanjian Hongqing Technology Company, also known as Hongqing Technology, has filed a notification with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for a new satellite constellation.

The filing, submitted on May 24, outlines an ambitious plan to deploy a network named Honghu-3, comprising 10,000 satellites spread across 160 orbital planes.

The Advance Publication Information (API) filing notifies the ITU and member states of Hongqing Technology’s intention to launch this extensive satellite system. This process allows other stakeholders to review the proposed network to ensure it does not interfere with their existing or planned satellite systems.

China's Expanding Satellite Ambitions

The Honghu-3 plan marks the third proposal by Chinese entities for a megaconstellation exceeding 10,000 satellites.

It follows the national Guowang plan and the Shanghai-backed G60 Starlink proposal, both approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Initial satellite launches for these constellations are anticipated in the coming months.

The rapid expansion of satellite constellations has raised concerns about increased congestion, potential collisions, and debris in low Earth orbit.

Currently, SpaceX’s Starlink is the largest operational constellation, with over 5,000 satellites in orbit and plans to scale up to 42,000.

Hongqing Technology's Role and Capabilities

Founded in 2017, Hongqing Technology has quickly become a notable player in China’s commercial space sector. Beijing-based Landspace, a major stakeholder with a 48% share, has significantly influenced the company’s trajectory.

Initially recognized for developing Hall thruster propulsion technology, Hongqing Technology is constructing a satellite manufacturing facility in Wuxi City, Jiangsu province, near Shanghai.

The funding details for Hongqing Technology’s ambitious plans remain unclear at the time of writing.

The company's technological advancements were highlighted when its Jinwu-200 (JW-200) krypton propellant Hall effect thruster was tested on the Honghu-2 satellite. This satellite was launched by a Landspace Zhuque-2 rocket in December last year and was developed in collaboration with small satellite manufacturer Spacety.

Hongqing Technology is headquartered in Shanghai’s Songjiang District and is actively participating in plans to develop satellite Internet in the region. The G60 Starlink, also based in the same area, has filed separate plans for its own satellite constellation.

Strategic Importance and Future Prospects

These developments align with Shanghai’s action plan to foster a commercial space ecosystem, which is part of China’s broader national strategy to establish a leading satellite Internet system and comprehensive space power.

China has previously announced a national plan for a space-ground integrated information network (SGIIN), aimed at creating a unified system combining communications, remote sensing, navigation, weather, and other satellite services.

Landspace, meanwhile, is progressing with the development of the Zhuque-3 rocket, a stainless steel, reusable methane-liquid oxygen launcher. This 4.5-meter-diameter rocket is designed to carry 21,000 kilograms to low Earth orbit in an expendable configuration and is expected to have its first launch in 2025.

Other Chinese commercial rocket companies, such as Space Pioneer, Galactic Energy, and iSpace, are also gearing up to launch satellites for China’s planned megaconstellations.

To support the increased launch demands, China is constructing a commercial spaceport near Wenchang, which will alleviate the current bottleneck in access to launch pads, enabling a higher launch rate necessary for building these expansive satellite networks.