Shijian-13, aka ChinaSat-16, the nation's first high-throughput communication satellite, is seen in its final assembly prior to its launch in 2017. Photo: China Academy of Space Technology

Travellers in China will soon be able to surf the internet even on a plane or a high-speed train traversing the country’s vast outback, thanks to a new geostationary communication satellite.

ChinaSat 16 has elevated the nation’s capabilities in satellite-making to the very fore of its international rivals, Beijing party mouthpiece the Global Times claims.

The 4.6-tonne satellite, carrying the first high-throughput payload of up to 20G, was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology and is based on the DFH-3B satellite platform.

Chinese orbital carrier rocket Long March 3B launched ChinaSat 16 to geostationary orbit in April. Photo: Xinhua.

State media revealed that Beijing made a determined effort to build its own satellites after the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, when Beijing had to turn to foreign firms, like the US-based Globalstar and Iridium Communications, to rent satellite phones for disaster relief operations as virtually all ground telecommunication networks in the stricken areas were rendered dysfunctional by the tremor.

ChinaSat 16 is the result of painstaking R&D for China’s first home-made high-throughput satellite. Officials say it will provide peace of mind for explorers and timely communication and responses when emergencies occur – its wide bandwidth will allow more lanes for more traffic, enabling speedy communication anytime, anywhere, even in deserts or on barren islets with no cellular network, Xinhua quoted ChinaSat 16’s chief scientist as saying.

The ‘super satellite’ is the backbone of a nationwide communication tool that could be vital for a huge country prone to natural disasters.

Shaded areas show the coverage reach of ChinaSat 16 and ChinaSat 18, scheduled to be launched in early 2019. Photo: China Academy of Space Technology.

Commercial application also includes internet services on planes, trains and vessels, as each slot of the satellite’s commercial bandwidth is capable of replaying large chunks of data – for up to 500 passengers on an ocean liner simultaneously, for example, with a capacity for that to be extended to 1,000 users.

Another feature that is worth some genuine bragging is its ultra-large antenna for enhanced connectivity. This allows miniaturized, portable receiving devices and satellite phones that can be as small as a suitcase or even a tablet.

The satellite will also test a new electric-propulsion system that ionizes a tank of 150 kilograms of xenon to raise its orbit and keep it at a geosynchronous altitude. That amount of propellant can guarantee a lifespan of no less than 15 years in space.

It appears that within 10 years of the 2008 earthquake, when China reportedly had to pay a fat markup to use foreign satellite services, its homemade ‘super satellites’ are poised to give their rivals a good run for their money.

China Satellite Communications Co Ltd is said to be planning a global marketing campaign for the new ChinaSat line-up, with deep price discounts to woo government and private clients away from Western firms, according to Global Times.

This comes at a time when its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System has thrown down the gauntlet to the Global Positioning System, and Europe’s Galileo navigation system.

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