Smart Skynet Launch: China Took the First Step Towards Space Network To Compete With Starlink

28th May 2024
Smart Skynet Launch: China Took the First Step Towards Space Network To Compete With Starlink

China plays a prominent role in the global space industry. Since the beginning of the year, the country has successfully launched over 21 spacecraft and aims to complete approximately 100 launches by the end of 2024. The goal is to provide internet access to users in every corner of the Earth.

Smart Skynet-1 mission

On 9th May, The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) launched a Long March 3B rocket, carrying two Smart Skynet-1 (01) satellites. They were sent to an orbit at 20,000 km above the Earth, becoming its first medium Earth orbit (MEO) broadband satellites. 

According to CASC, there are two satellites (A and B), both equipped with a multi-beam, high-speed microwave link, an inter-satellite two-way laser link, and a digital processing and forwarding platform. Smart Skynet-1 (01) satellites will be used for television, telephone, radio, internet, and military applications.

The satellites were developed by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) for Shanghai Tsingshen Tech in collaboration with Tsinghua University and the Shanghai government. 

A Long March-3B rocket
A Long March-3B rocket carrying the Smart SkyNet-1 01 satellites lifts off in Southwest China’s Sichuan province, May 9, 2024. Credit: Xinhua

What is their purpose?

China intends to create a medium Earth orbit (MEO) broadband satellite constellation, which will initially have 8 satellites with the possibility of expansion to 16 or 32. As a result, the constellation will provide Internet access to all users worldwide.

Moreover, Smart Skynet could be joined up with China’s low Earth (LEO) as well as geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites already in orbit to provide access to all types of users in all scenarios and all domains, as promised by CASC.

Future plans

Smart Skynet is a part of the “Shanghai Action Plan to Promote Commercial Aerospace Development and Create a Space Information Industry Highland (2023-2025)” – a government initiative to foster innovation and growth in the space sector. The great plan includes creating a space ecosystem consisting of various satellites, launch rockets and related infrastructure.

There is also the G60 Starlink project, initiated by Shanghai. It includes building a megaconstellation of more than 12,000 LEO satellites. 

Overall, the Chinese government supports space projects, providing generous funding and actively encouraging investments in this sector, striving to make China a “powerful aerospace country.” This national goal was highlighted by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

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