China’s ambitious ‘mega constellation’ of up to 13,000 satellites that would operate in low Earth orbit, akin to SpaceX Starlink, has raised snooping concerns, said a recent report of Daily Mail.
The network is reported to be a part of China’s 5G mobile internet rollout. The first contracts were awarded to enterprises to begin development work in Chongqing. The network’s coverage and operation are unclear, but the goal is to remedy gaps in terrestrial communications and service rural areas.
According to reports, China is concerned about an international rush for frequencies that allow data to flow from Earth to space.
China had first announced its plans to establish a mega constellation, dubbed as the “Guowang” (GW), in 2021. The constellation is designed to complement satellite-based internet services.
The rush to provide internet service from space-based assets in low-Earth orbit (LEO) has posed various hurdles, with China becoming the newest participant among a long list of American corporations and the European Union, according to an article published by Observer Research Foundation.
A satellite constellation is a high-level project for the Chinese government, and it might distribute internet and communications services all over the world, not just in China, competing with Western companies.
A mega-constellation is made up of hundreds to thousands of satellites that work together to cover all areas of the Earth, most of which operate a few hundred miles above the planet’s surface to provide internet services. Low-Earth Orbit is becoming increasingly crowded due to the commercial interests of various nations.
According to China’s state-owned magazine, Science and Technology Daily, this new initiative would see the construction of a communications base station in Chongqing.
China has previously deployed Earth observation satellites, which the country claims, would monitor marine disasters, the maritime environment, and water conservation.
— 中华人民共和国驻立陶宛共和国代办处 (@in_embassy) November 20, 2021
Companies that have been awarded the contract to establish the satellite center in Chongqing claim that the city offers a variety of strategic benefits, including labor and economy.
According to Commsat, one of these companies, international competition for frequency as well as resources in low Earth orbit is pushing the development. There is also now limited data processing capacity within China, and in order to build a global network, China would need to deploy ground stations all over the world.
The constellation of satellites would operate in a variety of frequency bands and potentially all over the world, providing services to various nations.
It has the backing of the Chinese government, and it coincides with plans for a number of satellite and space sector clusters across the country. This is part of a five-year plan that calls for an integrated network of communications, Earth observation, and navigation satellites through 2026.
In its five-year space exploration program, Beijing had earlier said that it intends to launch satellites with the assistance of state-owned enterprises and private actors in order to compete with the United States, as previously stated by the EurAsian Times.
The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), a state-owned company, had in 2020 announced ambitions to complete the Xingyun project, an 80-satellite LEO narrowband Internet of Things constellation, by 2025.
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The Snooping Concern
Not too long ago, reports had indicated that the United States was planning to build a ‘constellation of satellites’ to identify, detect and track Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.
Additionally, Elon Musk-led Space X had announced earlier this month that the mega-constellation would be refreshed every five months with newer technology.
With roughly 2,000 satellites in operation, SpaceX Starlink is the most developed, but Amazon aims to launch thousands more, and the European Union is looking into its options, according to Daily Mail.
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The company hopes to place around 42,000 satellites — nearly ten times the number of satellites functioning currently, for its so-called mega constellation project.https://t.co/6mgiATy0Rg pic.twitter.com/nAWMA7q8BW
— Adrian Li (@AdrianL16882023) October 13, 2021
While the American mega-constellation is well integrated into space, similar Chinese plans have sparked deep apprehensions. China’s onward march to space with its space station and a lunar base with Russia has unsettled the United States, which has enjoyed a monopoly in the space sector after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Security experts are concerned about any steps China makes in space, especially what uses a global fleet of Earth-facing satellites would have.
The relations between China and the West are currently in a deep freeze as a result of the West’s persistent rage over China’s purported cover-up of the origin of the Covid-19 outbreak. And any mass launch of satellites is sure to raise concerns that they will be used to spy on the US and its allies, according to Daily Mail.
The West has accused China of spying on multiple occasions and the proposed mega-constellation is sure to cause more suspicion and lead to more disenchantment between the two rivals. Additionally, the Americans have accused china of militarizing space.