China to Launch First of 320 Satellite Constellation

GB Times reports that China plans to launch the first of a planned 320 communications satellite constellation by the end of this year.

The satellite will be sent into a 1,100 km altitude orbit by a Long March 2D launch vehicle to test L- and Ka-band communication capabilities and compatibility in low Earth orbit (LEO).

A Long March 2D appears set to launch the SaudiSat 5A and 5B earth observation satellites with passengers including Jiading-1 from Jiuquan on November 20, but Hongyan-1 will likely be aboard a later launch.

It will be one of nine satellites orbited by 2020 as a pilot demonstration for the Hongyan system, which translates as ‘wild goose’. The name likely comes from the fact that geese were used to deliver messages in ancient China.

The first 60 satellites making up the first phase of deployment of the Hongyan constellation are expected to be in orbit and operational by around 2023, with the 300+ satellite system, which will provide global coverage, to be completed by 2025.