The Chinese government, by word and deed, has made clear it will be joining the United States and Russia at the top of the heap of the world’s most active space programs. Westerners visiting Chinese space installations return stunned by the magnitude of the endeavor — in space-based telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation and meteorology, launch vehicles, manned space and elsewhere.

But information about what the Chinese are doing is not always credible or sufficient, which is why a Paris-based technical consultancy, Luna, has created a service that culls open-source material in an attempt to paint a clearer picture.

To demonstrate what it is finding, Luna offered to provide SpaceNews with a sample of articles from May. 

— Peter B. de Selding

Beidou Program Slow To Find Domestic Applications

The goal of the Beidou program remains to leverage the large domestic applications market, including with Beidou’s text-messaging system. Lack of preparation for industrialization and marketing of Beidou-compatible terminals has undermined the business up to now.

The products were not sufficiently focused on concrete user needs. The price of the receivers is still a problem for most consumers, mainly because of their imported chips. Chinese chips are less advanced than foreign chips, but the size of the Chinese market, combined with industrial consolidation, should allow for a quick catch-up. 

Source: 4th Wuhan Satellite Navigation Academic Meeting, May 14.

China To Focus on Orbital Slot, Spectrum Coordination

As of Dec. 31, China had 107 satellites in orbit, of which 38 were in geostationary orbit and 69 in other orbits. Some 100 more satellites are scheduled for launch in the next five years. China has 20 of the total 700 networks registered at the International Telecommunication Union.

China’s strategy will rely on national coordination for orbital slot/frequency resource management to assure optimal resource allocation. Guozhen Jie, director of the National Radio Spectrum Management Center, said spectrum negotiations can take longer than the time it takes to manufacture a satellite.

Source: State Radio Regulation of China, May 15.

China, Indonesia Meet To Discuss Spectrum Issues

Several ministries from China, including the Ministry of Industry, China Satcom and the Meteorological Administration, and their counterparts from Indonesia, including Indosat, met in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss the coordination of their satellite networks to avoid interference.

Fifty-two workshops have been conducted under the International Telecommunication Union radio regulations framework, including broadcasting, navigation, meteorology and manned spaceflight. Consensus was not reached on every topic, but both parties have agreed to maintain a dialogue. 

Source: Shenzen Radio Administration, May 9.

Aerospace Component Makers To Standardize

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. has launched a vast aerospace components standardization program among its subsidiaries with the goal of creating specifications for procurement, production, identification, certification and packaging.

The program is in response to the challenges of increasingly complex projects such as lunar exploration and the development of new rockets. 

Source: China Aerospace Engineering Consulting Center, May 10.

Chinese Weather Satellites Hit International Standards

Con Yu, director of the China Meteorological Administration and Engineering, said the Fengyun-3 weather satellites to be launched later this year into polar, sun-synchronous orbit have reached international performance standards. The latest generation includes improved data storage, higher-resolution sensors and better data transmission rates. Their service life has been extended to five years from three years, and their power increased to 1.5 kilowatts from 1.18 kilowatts.

This should allow China to take a full share of the international weather monitoring system. But despite the improvements, the satellites do not yet match those of China’s international counterparts, especially in terms of available power. 

Source: China Aerospace Engineering Consulting Center, May 21.

China Testing Satellite AIS Service on Nanosatellite

The National Defense University’s nanosatellite, China’s first, has been in orbit for a year. Its planned service life was one month. The most important experiment being carried out was AIS (Automatic Identification System) reception and retransmission. This is China’s first spaceborne AIS terminal.

One million AIS messages were produced during the year, allowing the creation of global maps on ship routes, speed and more. The satellite’s feed is still operational and is being used daily by the Ministry of Transport and 17 other organizations. The satellite, Tiantuo-1, weighs 9.3 kilograms and is equipped with attitude control, information processing and data retransmission on a single board, doing away with internal cables. 

Source: National Defense University Science and Technology Daily, May 13.

Bolivia’s Tupac Katari Satellite Reaches Milestone

Payload integration has been completed for Bolivia’s Tupac Katari telecommunications satellite, built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) to operate in geostationary orbit with 30 transponders. Venezuela launched its second Chinese-made telecommunications satellite in October. 

Source: CASC, May 17.

China Satcom Plans Airline, Maritime Broadband Service

China Satcom plans to launch a Ku-band satellite in 2014 to provide broadband connectivity to aeronautical and maritime markets. China Satcom uses teleports in Beijing and Hong Kong. The new services are part of a diversification and internationalization program pursued by China Satcom General Manager Zhuo Chao, who has emphasized the necessary transition from business-to-business to business-to-business-to -consumer services.

New Remote Sensing Ground Station for South China Sea

The Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Remote Sensing inaugurated the Sanya satellite ground station, whose construction began in 2009. It is designed to fill China’s current gap in remote-sensing acquisition capabilities in the South China Sea.

Sanya will join the Beijing Miyun and Hong Kong ground stations. The Hong Kong station handles up to 750 megabytes of raw data per minute, equivalent to 10,000 square kilometers of imagery, and covers a region up to a 2,500-kilometer radius from the site. The Sanya station will acquire mainly tropical and subtropical spatial information for disaster monitoring, mapping and environment monitoring. It will also be involved in satellite and rocket telemetry. Sanya is outfitted with two 12-meter-diameter antennas and is expected to add two more by 2015. 

Source: Hainan Ribao newspaper, May 26.

Asia Satellite Builders Have 15 Percent of World Market

Asian companies’ share of the commercial satellite manufacturing market reached 15 percent in 2011 with Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan, ISS Reshetnev of Russia and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. the main players.

While Chinese manufacturers can rely on their domestic market, they still struggle to win foreign contracts, and even some domestic contracts as well, due to performance gaps compared with Western companies. China Satcom aims at having 15 telecommunications satellites in orbit by 2015. 

Source: China Economic Weekly, May 29.

Thuraya Seals Agreement With Chunghwa in Taiwan

Chunghwa Telecom will distribute Thuraya mobile satellite services in Taiwan with the principal customers expected to be the government, shipping companies, maritime personnel, rescue workers and ethnic communities. Taiwan is not totally covered by terrestrial networks because of its mountainous landscape. The service in Taiwan already has 800 customers and expects to reach 3,000 in 2014. 

Source: Joint Thuraya-Chunghwa press conference, May 5.

Thailand Satellite TV Sees 26 Percent Growth

The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia’s “Thailand in View” forum revealed 26 percent growth in the Thailand pay-TV market in the past year, from 9.6 billion Thai baht ($288 million) to 12.2 billion baht. Of Thailand’s 23 million households, 15 million have access to free-to-air TV and extra services via satellite. The lion’s share of the expected future pay-TV growth was forecast as occurring in satellite.

Recent government authorizations concerning pay-TV advertising, coupled with falling satellite dish prices and economic growth, lead analysts to forecast a satellite-TV boom in Thailand in the coming years. 

Source: The Nation (Thailand) May 31.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.