Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.
Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.
China conducted its 39th launch of the year on Saturday with a successful flight from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
A Long March 2D rocket lifted off with the Hongyan-1 satellite aboard. It is the first spacecraft of a planned 300+ satellite constellation designed to provide global Internet service in the L- and Ka- bands.
The constellation is being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
The booster also launched six Yunhai-2 satellites that will be used to study the atmosphere.
The launch came less than a week after the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corpopration (CASIC) launched the first Hongyun-1 satellite aboard a Long March 11 booster. Hongyun-1 is the first of a planned 156-satellite constellation designed to provide global communications beginning around 2022.
China’s 39 launches was the highest number ever for the nation. The country suffered one failure when the maiden launch of Zhuque-1 booster — developed by private startup Landspace — suffered a failure of its third stage.
The United States came in second place with 34 launches in 2018.
China plans to launch a test satellite for a global communications constellation by the end of this year.
The Hongyun project, launched by CASIC in September 2016, has the goal of building a space-based communications network of 156 small satellites in orbit about 1,000 kilometers above the Earth. It would become operational about 2022.
Researchers are designing the Hongyun satellite and will finish the design this year, Zhang said.
After the technology demonstration satellite, the academy will lift four Hongyun satellites by the end of 2020 to form a small network for the project’s trial run, according to Zhang. He said once the trial run proves successful, CASIC will start to launch the Hongyun satellites to establish a global constellation.
When the Hongyun project is complete, it will cover the whole world and offer round-the-clock communication services to users in polar regions, who now have difficulties accessing telecommunication and internet services, Zhang said.
China conducted its first launch of 2018 on Tuesday when a Long March 2D booster lofted a pair of SuperView imaging satellites into polar orbit for Beijing Space View Technology. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.
“Success! We’re thrilled to announce the successful launch of SuperView-1 03&04 satellites at 11:26 this morning in Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center!” the company tweeted.
The launch doubled the number of high-resolution SuperView satellites the company has on orbit. It plans to sell imagery on the global market.
GBTimesreports China could launch more than 40 times in 2018, which would be a substantial increase over the 18 launches the nation conducted last year.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), announced at a conference on January 2 that its 2018 work model includes 35 launches, underlining the return to flight of the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, the Chang’e-4 lunar far side mission and launches of Beidou navigation satellites as the major activities.
In addition CASIC, a defence contractor, missile maker and sister company of CASC, will carry out a number of missions through its subsidiary EXPACE, including launching four Kuaizhou-1A rockets within one week and the maiden flight of the larger Kuaizhou-11.
Landspace Technology, a Beijing-based private aerospace company, is also expected to debut its LandSpace-1 solid propellant rocket this year.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced last week that it plans to launch a reusable space plane capable of taking off and landing on a runway around the year 2020.
Unlike traditional one-off spacecraft, the new spacecraft will fly into the sky like an aircraft, said Chen Hongbo, a researcher from the corporation. The spacecraft can transport people or payload into the orbit and return to Earth.
China introduced a new commercial rocket this week aimed at the small satellite market with the successful launch of three satellites.
The solid fuel Kuaizhou 1A rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Monday. It carried the JL-1 commercial Earth observation satellite and two experimental CubeSats named Canton-1 and XS-Y1, according to the official Xinhau news agency.
It was the third flight for the Kuaizhou booster, but the first commercial launch under Expace, which is a commercial subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.
Kuaizhou 1A is capable of lifting up to 200 ( 441 lb) into sun synchronous orbit and 300 kg (661 lb) into low Earth orbit. Expace is targeting the booster at the booming small satellite market.