China plans 'megaconstellation' of 13,000 satellites, claims report

Published on Jan 29, 2022 07:32 AM IST

The plan has renewed concerns of spying among the western countries. China, however, says that these satellites are meant to fill gaps in terrestrial communication and strengthen the 5G network on the ground.

The plan has broad support at the top levels of the Chinese government.(Representational Photo)
The plan has broad support at the top levels of the Chinese government.(Representational Photo)
By | Written by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

China is embarking on a mission that has renewed concerns about spying. It plans to send upto 13,000 satellites in space - a ‘megaconstellation’ - that will encircle the Earth in the lower orbit, a report in the Daily Mail said.

The company that has got the responsibility of this work has said that the main goal of the mission is to establish supremacy in lower Earth orbit, the report further said.

Strengthening of 5G network is the aim: China

China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) has called for orderly development of small satellites, according to the Daily Mail report.

It said that the group of satellites will be able to provide surveillance over much of the Earth and strengthen internet facilities.

Though the details about what the network will cover and how it will work are vague, the aim is to fill gaps in terrestrial communication, especially in rural areas, to strengthen its 5G network services, the report further said.

Similar to SpaceX Starlink

According to China’s plan, the 12,992 satellites will orbit in low earth orbit like the satellites of SpaceX-Starlink company - in a ‘megaconstellation’. Their range will be between 498.89 kilometres to 1144.24 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.

Some firms have been given the contract to begin the development work in Chongqing, the Daily Mail report claimed.

A ‘megaconstellation’ is a network of thousands of satellites which cover the length and breadth of the Earth to deliver internet services. The SpaceX Starlink is currently the most developed, with nearly 2,000 satellites in operation.

The satellite internet constellation is a top priority for the Chinese government.

What are the concerns?

The plan is not a new one. China first applied to the International Telecommunication Union for spectrum allocation for two low Earth orbit satellite constellations back in 2020. But now, after the reports that China has already given the contract, the western governments are concerned.

The United States and its allies believe that this is a plan by the Communist government in China to spy on them.

The relations between the two sides are frayed, thanks to China’s saber-rattling on the issue of Taiwan and its alleged cover-up of the emergence of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

Not the first time

China has been monitoring every movement on Earth from space. For this, it has already launched two Earth observation satellites called Gaofen. China claims that these satellites monitor marine disasters, the maritime environment and water conservation.

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