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Geely’s space race begins

ONE SMALL STEP: The nine satellites are the first of 63 that the Hangzhou-Based company expects to have in low earth orbit by 2025.

Chinese car maker launches nine satellites for autonomous driving fleet

9 Jun 2022

GEELY conducted its first successful satellite launch this week when it sent nine units into low earth orbit to provide more accurate navigation for its growing fleet of autonomous vehicles.


The Chinese brand’s self-designed and manufactured GeeSAT-1 satellites were launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. Geely used a Long March 2C rocket developed and operated by a Chinese state-owned entity to launch the nine satellites.


The nine units are the first of 63 that the Hangzhou-Based company, which also owns Volvo Cars, Polestar, Lynk & Co, Proton and Lotus, expects to have in orbit by 2025. Eventually, Geely plans to have a constellation of 240 satellites.


Geely’s satellites will be manufactured at the compay’s Taizhou facility in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The First AIT (Assembly, Integration and Testing) Centre for Commercial Satellites facility has an annual capacity of 500 units.


The constellation will be managed via a network of ground stations in Chengdu, Harbin, Korla, Qingdao and Taizhou with initial coverage to support China and the Asia-Pacific region. The company says it has plans to extend its coverage globally from 2026.


“By establishing the Geely Future Mobility Constellation, Geespace is positioning itself to meet future user demands for high-precision positioning, space-based communication, and remote sensing services,” said Geepsace CEO and chief scientist, Tony Wang.


“In addition, new opportunities have been opened in various sectors including smart mobility, consumer electronics, unmanned systems, smart cities and environmental protection.”


Autonomous vehicles generate a massive amount of data that needs to be analysed quickly and in real-time. According to Morgan Stanley, self-driving vehicles can produce as much as 40 terabytes of data per hour from cameras, radars and other sensors, and will require much more than that to navigate roads on their own.


This week’s launch makes Geely the second major car manufacturer to have an allied space business. SpaceX, owned and operated by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has more than 2000 satellites in orbit for its Starlink network that also offers commercial internet services.


Starlink plans to eventually have a network of 4408 satellites in low earth orbit (approximately 560km above the Earth’s surface).


Geely said that in addition to supporting high-speed data connectivity, precise navigation and cloud-based computing capabilities in future vehicles, its network would serve other commercial functions, such as providing communication support for the Asian Games in September.


“The satellites will provide centimetre-accurate precise positioning and connectivity support for use by automotive brands in the Geely Holding portfolio,” the brand said.


The satellites have an operating lifespan of five years and will disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere without leaving any space debris, the Chinese firm asserted.


China’s satellite networks are dominated by its military, but the government began to allow private investment in the space industry in 2014. Since then, commercial companies have rushed to the sector with the majority focused on making satellites and the remainder on launch vehicles, including SpaceX-style reusable rockets.


In its latest five-year plan (2021-25), Beijing has called for an integrated network of satellites for communication, navigation and remote sensing. At present, the country has more than 400 satellites deployed in space, including commercially owned units.


With Automotive News Europe and Reuters.


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