China’s Geely launches first nine low-orbit satellites for autonomous cars

SHANGHAI, June 2 (Reuters) – China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group launched its first successful satellite launch on Wednesday, sending nine into low-Earth orbit as it built a satellite network to provide more accurate navigation for autonomous vehicles.

The self-designed and manufactured GeeSAT-1 satellites were launched from the Xichang satellite launch center in southwestern Sichuan Province. Geely said it expects another 63 to be in orbit by 2025 and plans to eventually have a constellation of 240.

With its launch, Geely became the second major automaker to have a space business. SpaceX, owned by Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk, has more than 2,000 satellites in orbit for its Starlink network, which offers commercial Internet services. Starlink plans to have a first-generation network of 4,408 satellites.

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While SpaceX uses its own rockets to launch its satellites, Geely uses a Long March 2C rocket developed and operated by a Chinese state-owned enterprise to launch the nine.

In addition to providing high-precision positioning support for self-driving cars, Geely said its network will serve other commercial functions, such as providing communications services at the Asian Games in September.

The satellites have a service life of five years and will disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere without leaving any space debris, the company added.

China’s satellite networks are dominated by the military, but the government began allowing private investment in the country’s space industry in 2014. Since then, commercial companies, some backed by local authorities, have rushed into the sector, with the majority focusing on satellite production and others. try to build small launch vehicles, including reusable rockets.

In its latest five-year plan for 2021-2025, Beijing called for an integrated network of satellites for communications, remote sensing and navigation. China currently has more than 400 satellites in space, including commercial satellites, according to state media.

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Report by Zhang Yang and Ryan Wu; Edited by Edwina Gibbs

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