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China advancing its ‘Space silk road’ strategy to back its belt and road plan by launching mobile communication satellite and its smartphone

“China possesses the most rapidly maturing space program in the world and is using its on-orbit and ground-based assets to support its national civil, economic, political, and military goals and objectives. China has invested in advanced space capabilities, with particular emphasis on satellite communication (SATCOM), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), satellite navigation (SATNAV), and meteorology, as well as manned, unmanned, and interplanetary space exploration, says Annual Report to Congress: “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015”. In addition to its on-orbit assets, China’s space program has built a vast ground infrastructure supporting spacecraft and space launch vehicle (SLV) manufacture, launch, C2, and data downlink.


China’s aerospace technology company has unveiled the first satellite smartphone designed for use with the country’s first mobile communications satellite, Tiantong-1 (TT-1), media reports said. CASC launched TT-1 into an equator-hugging, geostationary orbit about 35,000km above the earth on August 6, this year. “The TT-1 smartphone is so far capable of covering the territory of China and the whole of South China Sea. We are going to expand our coverage to the whole world by launching a network of TT satellites in the next five years,” said an engineer from CASC.


Satellite experts said the new satellite smartphone was a product of the ‘space-based Silk Road’, a long-term strategy proposed by Chinese aerospace companies, institutions and scholars to support the country’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The space-based Silk Road initiative was proposed in 2014 by the International Alliance of Satellite Application Service (ASAS), a China-based organization of aerospace companies, institutions and scholars that promotes Chinese satellite services around the world.


The space-based Silk Road will use dozens of these satellites to meet the communication and remote-sensing application demand for the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, according to Wang Zhongguo, executive vice-president of the ASAS. “The space-based Silk Road will help Chinese companies and governments involved in the program to exchange information, especially for projects in regions with limited communication and transportation capacity,” Wang told the Global Times.


However China’s space programs have dual use. In today’s warfighting environment, the need for information is critical and smart phones and mobile communication satellites can provide PLA with global beyond line of sight (BLOS), secure voice, video and data communications to ground, naval, and air tactical warfighters on-the-move. It shall enable small units of special operators performing missions in isolated locations to maintain contact with each other and with headquarters.

China unveils first smartphone for satellite communications network

The new smartphone, developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), is scheduled to go on sale in two-to-three months, South China Morning Post reported on Sunday. According to the report, the smartphone was specially designed for emergency communication by field geologists or relief workers in remote areas, or when ground telecommunication networks were interrupted by natural disaster or accidents.


Besides satellite coverage, the smartphone is compatible with multiple ground-based cellular networks, including 4G LTE and 3G, supports SMS, WeChat, video and data transmission, and allows free switching between satellite and ground communication. The smartphone will retail from around 10,000 yuan ($1,480), with communication fees starting from around 1 yuan a minute — a tenth of the price charged by Inmarsat.


China’s first mobile telecom satellite successfully launched

China sent a mobile communications satellite the Tiantong 1 into orbit on top of a Long March 3B rocket,on Aug 2016from the Xichang launch base in southwest China’s Sichuan province.

The Xinhua news agency said Tiantong 1 “is the first satellite of China’s home-made satellite mobile telecom system, and a key part of the country’s space information infrastructure.” More satellites will be launched to expand the mobile telecom network, Chinese state media reported.

Designed by the China Academy of Space Technology, Tiantong 1 will connect users on the move who are not equipped with large antennas. Similar mobile satellite network, such as the commercial Inmarsat system, include hand-held terminals for subscribers to connect from remote locales. Xinhua reported the Tiantong system will reach users in China, the Middle East, Africa and other regions. The network’s ground service will be operated by China Telecom, official news reports said.


China space based silk road

China has more than 110 artificial satellites in orbit around the Earth, and is pushing ahead with a program to build a space-based “Silk Road,” said an official with the China International Satellite Service Association (CISSA). The 110 satellites include communications satellites, remote sensing satellites and navigation satellites, and the first two types of satellites have achieved global coverage, said Wang Zhongguo, executive vice president of the CISSA, during an interview with China News Service. On Monday night, China launched the 17th satellite of its Beidou Navigation Satellite System, marking the first step in its plan to expand the system’s regional service into global coverage.


The CISSA, made up of enterprises, institutions and scholars in the aerospace field, was set up in 2014, with the aim of helping expand Chinese satellite service to the world. Based on the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Road and Belt) initiatives, the CISSA plans to build a space-based “Silk Road” to provide better services to the Road and Belt region.


Wang said the new system will be made up of an extensive communications satellite network, several virtual remote sensing satellite constellations, and ground facilities. China will also promote the system’s connection and interaction with the world’s major navigation systems, and seek cooperation with them on building space-based and ground-based navigation augmentation systems, he adds.


Upon completion, the system will be capable of offering more accurate and qualified satellite navigation services to the Road and Belt region, as well as conducting stable long-term comprehensive monitoring of the land, ocean, air and environment in the region.


Wang said technology is not a problem in building the space-based “Silk Road,” and that the key is knowing the needs of countries and regions along the Road and Belt. So far, his association has developed relationships with Malaysia and Indonesia regarding satellite and ground station cooperation projects.



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