China is gearing up to construct the country's first constellation of very-low-Earth-orbit (VLEO) satellites, with the maiden launch scheduled for this September, said the head of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC) on Wednesday.
The launch will verify and demonstrate key technologies such as VLEO flight, high-resolution Earth imaging, intelligent processing, and direct transmission of information to user terminals, said Song Xiaoming, head of the Second Institute of CASIC.
VLEO refers to an altitude 150 to 300 kilometers away from the Earth, and VLEO satellites have the added advantage of being cheaper and providing more efficient transmission than satellites at higher orbits, allowing for batch production of satellites and high-density launches, according to Song.
Take remote sensing application for example. Given that the resolution performance is the same, VLEO satellites have much less weight and cost.
They can respond quickly to natural disasters and other emergencies, acquiring high-resolution images in a short period of time, thus improving the capability of information acquisition.
In this case, VLEO satellites have a high application value and great potential, said Song.
"In today's world, competition in the field of science and technology is becoming more and more prominent. China has proposed building a remote sensing space infrastructure system with global coverage and efficient operation in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025)."
To achieve the goal, CASIC will build a satellite constellation to operate at VLEO to reach a performance level rivaling traditional orbital satellite systems, at offering lower costs and offering faster responses.
Song further mentioned that this will also support the constellation construction with rapid batch manufacturing and launch capabilities.