Sponsored By

China's Starlink rival gets a new launchpad

Beijing has reached a significant milestone in its bid to offer global satellite broadband coverage that can go toe-to-toe with Starlink.

Nick Wood

January 11, 2024

2 Min Read

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced it has completed construction of launchpad number one at the country's first commercial spaceport, currently being built in the city of Wenchang, on the island province of Hainan.

Construction of the number two launchpad is ongoing, and is due to be completed by the end of May.

Once fully up and running, the site will be home to CASC's Long March 8 medium-sized rocket. Specifically designed to carry satellite-sized payloads, it undertook its first launch in late 2020. The aim is to develop it into a partially reusable rocket similar to those used by Starlink parent SpaceX.

According to a report by Nikkei, the new launchpad and rockets are expected to be used mainly by China Satellite Network (SatNet) Group.

The state-owned entity has been tasked with carrying out Project Guo Wang (national network), which will see the deployment of as many as 13,000 low-Earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellites. It plans to launch the first 1,300 of them between the first half of 2024 and 2029.

China has made no secret of its plan to offer an alternative to Starlink, an outfit that has engendered suspicion at one of the country's space agencies.

Qu Wei, of China's Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), was cited in a South China Morning Post (SCMP) article last year as asserting that Starlink is working with the US military, which wants to use its network as "a space-based defensive, and even offensive, system."

He also said that Starlink is a threat to the safety and information sovereignty of other nations, and that the sheer size of the constellation poses a collision risk to other LEO operators.

China's response seems to be to make space even more cluttered.

Not content with SatNet's 13,000 satellites, Shanghai's municipal government in July shared details of its planned 'G60 Starlink' network.

Not to be confused with SpaceX's Starlink, G60 aims to deploy 12,000 satellites, with the first 600 due to be up and running by the end of 2025, according to Nikkei. A separate report by Shanghai Securities News said G60's first deployment phase is comprised of 1,296 LEO satellites in total.

Meanwhile, in March 2022, Beijing-based GalaxySpace launched another six broadband satellites into low-Earth orbit. It eventually aims to operate a 1,000-strong constellation, which in addition to offering data connectivity, are also capable of taking pictures and video, which sounds just a little bit sinister.

Taking China's plans for a total of 26,000 LEO satellites, together with Starlink's planned 42,000 and the 3,236 planned by Project Kuiper – not to mention the 648 OneWeb satellites already in orbit – and it is starting to look as though there is a distinct lack of space in space.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

Get the latest news straight to your inbox.
Register for the Telecoms.com newsletter here.

You May Also Like