China's first communications satellite outfitted with an ultra-thin, flexible solar wing was successfully launched. This satellite is part of China's ambitious proposal to construct a 13,000-satellite broadband megaconstellation in low-Earth orbit, directly competing with SpaceX's Starlink project.
According to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks launches on his website, more than 4,500 Starlink satellites are presently in orbit. In the next decade, the number is anticipated to reach 42,000.
The Beijing-based startup GalaxySpace's Lingxi-03 satellite was launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Shanxi province. The launch occurred on Sunday, July 23, with a Long March 2D rocket carrying the satellite.
One of the most important features of the Lingxi-03 satellite is its 1 mm-thick, malleable solar panel. This is equivalent to the thickness of a credit card and is only 5% of the thickness of a conventional solar panel.
When folded and stored within the rocket, the solar array has a 5 cm thickness. Once the satellite is operative in orbit, however, the solar panel expands to a remarkable 9 m in length and 2.5 m in width.
Prior to this voyage, China's Tiangong space station was powered by identical solar panels.
According to GalaxySpace's chief technology officer Zhu Zhengxian, who spoke with China Science Daily, the utilised solar wings are compact, lightweight, and simple to store. They absorb solar energy more efficiently than conventional solar panels and are ideally suited for large-scale modular satellite launches.
The Lingxi-03 satellite is equipped with a digital payload capable of transferring tens of gigabytes per second of information.
According to Hu Zhao, the satellite's principal commander, its primary objectives include testing technologies related to next-generation low-orbit broadband communications, active thermal control, and stackable satellite release.
Hu added that the Lingxi-03 satellite has the capabilities of a ground-based station and can analyse a vast quantity of user data.
GalaxySpace, founded in 2018, is the first corporation in China to offer satellite-based internet services exclusively. In September, the firm raised capital at a valuation of $1.58 billion.
GalaxySpace successfully launched six communications satellites into low-Earth orbit in March 2022 for an experimental network known as the "mini-spider constellation." As part of this initiative, the business conducted effective 5G network evaluations.
China and a number of Western companies have proposed megaconstellation designs that could result in over 65,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit. This increase in satellites could result in a potentially more congested and hazardous environment.