Without much fanfare, press coverage or live broadcast, China launched at 10:10 pm on Monday (9:10 am on Tuesday, Beijing time) the first satellites in its narrowband constellation Xingyun (“Sky-based Internet of Things”).

Xingyun-2 01 (also called “Wuhan”) and Xingyun-2 02 climbed into space on board the Kuaizhou-1A rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in the heart of the Gobi Desert, 1,600 km away Beijing and within the aerospace city Dongfeng.

Once in orbit, the satellites will connect to each other using trans-satellite laser communication to create an online network in low earth orbit, 561 km from the surface. The two satellites are programmed to implement innovations such as laser link technology between satellites and air-to-ground satellite communication protocols, in addition to monitoring the polar environment.

The Xingyun project, created in December 2017, is divided into three stages. The two devices launched yesterday will continue, until 2023, another 78 satellites operating in low orbit and covering the gaps in the coverage of the cellular network. The launches aim to improve and boost the Chinese program for the development of the so-called Internet of Things (IoTs), which connects sensors and everyday objects through wireless communications.

Five Clouds Project
First space-based satellite constellation to receive independent investments in China, it is one of the main commercial aerospace programs of the “Five Cloud Project”, from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The goal is to keep up with the burgeoning international commercial aerospace industry supported by an ecosystem grouping IoTs, space-based internet, cloud internet, Big Data and Modeling and Simulation.

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