China has revealed plans to establish a second satellite “mega constellation” to provide high-speed broadband internet services aimed at competing with Elon Musk’s Starlink network.
The constellation, reportedly called ‘G60 Starlink’, will consist of up to 12 000 satellites settled in low earth orbit, according to Chinese state media.
When completed, G60 will join the Guo Wang constellation, or “National Network”, a 13 000-satellite network, under construction since July 2023.
In September this year, the party secretary to Shanghai’s Songjiang district, Cheng Xiangmin, visited the G60 Hi-Tech Corridor, an industrial hub on the banks of the Yangtze River in western Shanghai, to inspect an area intended to be the production centre of the G60 satellites.
The project is part of a greater programme initiated by the Songjiang municipal government in 2016 called the G60 Science and Technology Innovation Corridor.
The massive undertaking aims to attract and establish advanced manufacturing industries up and down the 2 360-kilometre-long G60 expressway that links the two major cities of Shanghai and Kunming, commonly referred to as the Hukun expressway.
The delegation also met with representatives of the project’s partners, including Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology and Shanghai Alliance Investment, according to a statement from Songjiang district’s official website.
An insider at Shanghai Alliance Investment said the venture capital firm has paid attention to the timeline and progression of the multi-billion dollar project.
The company is working diligently to roll out investment into the G60 Starlink program to boost technology transfer in the relatively young sector while navigating potential pitfalls along the way.
While speaking to media members in July, Cheng announced that experimental satellites had been successfully launched into space, adding that the first 1 300 of 12 000 satellites would follow, making up the first phase of the operation.
There is, as of yet, no official timeline for the G60 Starlink project, and some analysts have pointed out that the China National Space Administration has yet to develop a reusable rocket akin to SpaceX’s more cost-effective Falcon 9, to deposit the many thousands of communication satellites into orbit.
Musk’s SpaceX currently enjoys a near-monopoly in the field of space-based internet services because of its advanced rocket systems – in the last five years, the California-based firm has launched an estimated 4 800 satellites into orbit and has more than two million customers across 60 countries.