China launches experimental satellite to boost internet connectivity

Reuters
Beijing, China Published: Dec 22, 2018, 01:49 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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A Long March-11 rocket carrying the satellite blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 07:51 local time and has successfully entered its preset orbit.

China launched an experimental satellite on Saturday morning as part of its major new Hongyun Project, which seeks to establish a low-orbit broadband communication satellite system to improve internet connectivity.

A Long March-11 rocket carrying the satellite blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 07:51 local time and has successfully entered its preset orbit.

The launch, which is the first satellite of the Hongyun Project to put into orbit, marks the substantial progress China has made in mapping out the low-orbit broadband communication satellite system, according to the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

The Hongyun project was initiated by CASIC in September 2016 and aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in underserved regions.

"Using a common expression, we are moving the Internet currently on the ground into the sky. The first satellite of the Hongyun Project is China's first true low-orbit broadband communication satellite, which will greatly promote the development of aerospace sectors, particularly commercial aerospace," said Hou Xiufeng, a CASIC spokesman.

CASIC plans to launch another four experimental Hongyun satellites before the end of 2020 to form a small network for Hongyun's trial run, the spokesman added.

The corporation currently intends to place 156 Hongyun satellites on orbits about 1,000 kilometres above ground by around 2023, while the constellation is likely to be further expanded in response to market demands.

Xiang Kaiheng, Hongyun's chief designer at the CASIC Space Engineering Development company in Beijing, said the satellite mainly carries broadband service communication devices, which will jointly verify the low-orbit satellite broadband communication technology with the receiving stations on the ground.

"At present, many areas can't be covered by the ground network. We can't get through to phones when we are in the mountainous area. In the future, with the support of the constellation, we can access the internet anytime and anywhere, even at sea," said the engineer.

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