Prelims Level
Mains Level
Prelims Syllabus : Space-Based Broadband Services Mains Syllabus : Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Why in News?

  • China on December 22 launched its first communication satellite to provide broadband internet services worldwide in an apparent bid to rival Google and other international firms.

Hongyun Project:

  • The Hongyun project, started in September 2016, aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in the underserved regions.
  • The satellite was launched from a Long March 11 carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-western China.
  • It is the first in the Hongyun project planned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).
  • The spacecraft is tasked with verifying basic designs of Hongyun satellite and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies.
  • Weighing 247 kilograms, the satellite works in a sun-synchronous orbit about 1,100 kilometres above earth.
  • It is powered by solar arrays and has a design life of one year, but is expected to operate longer.
  • CASIC plans to launch four mass-production Hongyun satellites in future.

Space-Based Broadband Service:

  • The concept of running a low-cost, high-performance satellite network to provide space-based communications and internet services has become popular globally among industry players.
  • Currently, many foreign tech companies, including Google, SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat, have already launched plans to use satellites to provide free internet access.
  • The US’ SpaceX launched two experimental satellites last month to test technologies for its Starlink project, in which tech tycoon Elon Musk proposes to put a total of nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit by the mid-2020s.
  • Similarly, US firm, OneWeb, plans to launch a satellite constellation of 648 low-Earth orbit microsatellites by the end of 2019, though few developments have been reported. Last month, a Chinese internet technology firm unveiled the first satellite in a constellation plan comprising of 272 satellites to provide free WiFi service worldwide.
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