China ups the ante in bid to rival SpaceX’s Starlink as G60 megaconstellation satellite rolls off the production line in Shanghai

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China’s second low-earth satellite megaconstellation to provide broadband internet services began production in Shanghai on Wednesday, amid a push to explore potential in the space technology industry and as competition heightens with SpaceX’s Starlink.

The digital-production plant located within the G60 Starlink industrial base, which focuses on commercial satellite production and applications and is backed by the Shanghai municipal government, produced its first commercial satellite on Wednesday, according to authorities in the city’s Songjiang district.

By 2024, the factory would launch and operate at least 108 satellites to provide initial commercial services, and would also build a full industry chain that can compete globally by 2027, the district government said.

The factory is expected to have a production capacity of 300 satellites per year, according to Cao Jin, general manager of Shanghai Gesi Aerospace Technology, a state-owned company established in 2022 to run the G60 Starlink factory.

Under the factory’s mass production capabilities, the time required to build one satellite would be reduced from about two to three months to one and a half days, Cao added.

But the timeline is still lower than the daily production rate of six satellites by SpaceX’s Starlink.

China has increased its efforts to foster the commercial satellite market that is expected to play a significant role in frontier technology amid an escalating rivalry with the United States.

The 12,000-satellite G60 Starlink project, along with the 13,000-satellite Guo Wang national network which is currently under construction, is widely seen as China’s answer to Elon Musk’s Starlink.

Is China’s rapidly developing aerospace information industry ready for take off?

The G60 Starlink project started in 2016, with the Shanghai government announcing its cluster plans in 2021.

As of July, the local government said they would send nearly 1,300 satellites into orbit during the initial phase of the project.

G60 is the name of a motorway that runs through several manufacturing cities in the Yangtze River Delta region, which is one of China’s economic powerhouses.

It contains hi-tech manufacturers, including remote-sensing technology, big data, computing centres and quantum communications enterprises.

The G60 megaconstellation is also a vital link in the aerospace information industry, which has an industrial chain including satellites, data application services, artificial intelligence and deep learning to support the processing of huge amounts of data captured by satellites.

China’s aerospace information industry is expected to reach 44.69 billion yuan (US$6.26 billion) in 2025, up from 29.3 billion yuan in 2021, according to research by China Fortune Securities in August.

The aerospace information industry took a 73 per cent share of the global commercial space market, which reached around US$384 billion in 2022, the report said.

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