China has sent up several remote-sensing satellites in the Yaogan series and more launches are set for this year. Photo: Handout
China has launched several remote-sensing satellites in the Yaogan series. Photo: Handout

The launch this month of a high-throughput communication satellite, the Shijian-13, has brought the number of Chinese satellites orbiting the earth to 170.

That feat is being trumpeted by China’s aerospace industry because the nation didn’t launch its first satellite, the Dongfanghong (Red Orient), until the 1970s.

The high-orbit satellite has accomplished a two-way high-speed sky-to earth laser communication test, the first of its kind in the world.

The Shijian-13 also has a capacity of 26 user beams to cover remote areas in China and enable long-distance learning and emergency communications.

The next generation of the series will have a capacity of 500 Gbit/s.

In 2016, the world’s first quantum satellite, nicknamed “Micius” after an ancient Chinese scientist, was put into orbit on top a Long March 2-D rocket to establish 100% secure, “hack-proof” quantum communications by transmitting “uncrackable” keys from space to the ground and vice versa.

Yet what the Chinese state media won’t tout too much is the network of spy satellites that has been prying on rivals, with a new one due to be sent into space this month in one of the three launches in four days.

Xinhua said the new satellite, Yaogan, is designed for remote-sensing of land resources. It has technology that will analyze vegetation, water, impervious surfaces, nutrients, and soil.


It has also been reported that Beijing plans “ghost imaging” reconnaissance satellites that will allow them to track all US military planes using the sun and special laser beams, such as the B-2 Spirit stealth bombers that carry out nighttime missions, plus Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bombers.

Currently, they are the only planes that can strike enemy targets without being picked up by a foe’s radar system.

The marked ascent of Chinese space technologies and the elusive disclosure of development and launches stirred Eric Schmidt, head of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to sound a stark alarm earlier this month.

Speaking about whether the US or China would have more technological power in space technology and AI, Schmidt said: “[The answer is] pretty simple. By 2020 they will have caught up. By 2025 they will be better than us. And by 2030 they will dominate”.

Read more:

Is China edging ahead in the race to rule space?

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