Geely Launches Satellite for Self-Driving Cars
The first 72 satellites of the Geely constellation will be launched by 2025.
China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group conducted its first successful satellite launch last Wednesday, sending nine into low earth orbit as it builds out a satellite network intended to provide more accurate navigation inter-vehicle communications for autonomous vehicles.
The auto group’s portfolio consists of British carmaker, Lotus, and Swedish auto group, Volvo Car Group, makers of Volvo and Polestar.
The in-house designed and manufactured GeeSAT-1 satellites, were launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Geely said it expects another 63 to be in orbit by 2025 with eventual plans to have a constellation of 240.
The satellites carry navigation, communications, and multispectral remote sensing payloads, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), China’s largest state-owned space enterprise.
With the launch, Geely becomes the second major automaker to have an affiliated space business. SpaceX, owned by Tesla Inc. CEO, Elon Musk, has more than 2,200 satellites in orbit for its Starlink network that offers commercial internet services. Starlink plans to have a constellation of 42,000 satellites.
While SpaceX uses its own rockets to launch its satellites, Geely used a Long March 2C rocket developed and operated by state-owned CASC subsidiaries for its launch.
In addition to providing high-precision positioning support to self-driving cars, Geely said its network will also serve other commercial functions such as providing communication services at the Asian Games in September.
The satellites have an operating lifespan of five years and will disintegrate in earth’s atmosphere without leaving any space debris, the company added.
China’s satellite networks are predominantly military applications, but the government began to allow private investment in the country’s space industry in 2014. Since then, commercial companies have rushed into the sector.
In its latest five-year plan for 2021-2025, Beijing has called for an integrated network of satellites for communications, remote sensing and navigation. China currently has more than 400 satellites deployed in space, including commercially owned satellites, according to state media.