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China Preparing To Launch Mega Satellite Constellation This Year

China is preparing to launch the first satellites for "Guowang" its national Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband megaconstellation.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Fri Mar 31 2023Written by Zac Aubert

China is preparing to launch the first satellites for "Guowang" its national Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband megaconstellation.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has announced that a Long March 5B rocket equipped with a Yuanzheng-2 second stage will be used to launch the first satellites in the second half of 2023 from the Wenchang spaceport on the country's coast.

The Chinese government aims to deploy 13,000-satellites into the constellation to rival Western ventures, like Starlink. The project is expected to have implications for international competition to secure customers for satellite communications, infrastructure, and space debris. It may also have implications for commercial space development in China.

Two entities, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), a major subsidiary of CASC, and the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites (IAMCAS) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, are contracted to manufacture satellites for Guowang. IAMCAS is set to deliver its first 30 satellites for the project by the end of 2023.

China has significantly increased its small satellite manufacturing capacity in recent years, with several entities each capable of producing hundreds of satellites annually. CASC’s main rocket-making arm is also preparing the Long March 5B rocket for a “high-density launch stage to meet the country’s needs for large-scale and rapid access to space.” This includes ramping up production of required kerosene-liquid oxygen engines for the launch vehicle’s side boosters.

The Long March 5B rocket was previously used to send the country’s three modules directly into orbit to construct the Tiangong space station. The upper stage of the rocket will now allow for multiple satellites to be injected into various orbits.

Several Chinese commercial launch companies are competing to secure contracts to launch satellites for the Guowang project. This has led newer companies to build medium and large launch vehicles earlier in their development.