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China launches first two-way laser communication terminal into space
The space-based laser terminal developed by HiStarlink.
China launches first two-way laser communication terminal into space
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Feb 06, 2024

In a significant advancement for space-based communication, China has successfully deployed its first two-way laser communication terminal into orbit, marking a pivotal step in enhancing data transfer capabilities from space. This experimental terminal, developed by Shenzhen-based HiStarlink in collaboration with AdaSpace, a satellite maker from Chengdu, was launched aboard the Xingshidai 20 satellite via a Smart Dragon 3 carrier rocket. The launch took place on Saturday morning off the coast of Yangjiang, Guangdong, demonstrating China's growing prowess in space technology and commercial space endeavors.

The Xingshidai 20 satellite, a product of the joint effort between HiStarlink and AdaSpace, was among nine satellites launched, showcasing the ambitious strides both companies are making in the field of laser communication. This technology is noted for its substantial transmission capacity, extensive reach, and heightened security features, offering a promising alternative to traditional radio-frequency communications.

Laser communication, characterized by its ability to transmit data using laser beams between satellites and Earth, presents a host of challenges due to the precision required in aligning the communicating terminals. Despite these obstacles, Tan Jun, the founder and CEO of HiStarlink, emphasized the technology's critical role in future space-based information networks.

"Laser communication is an irreplaceable component in any space-based information network," Tan stated, underlining the technology's potential to achieve transmission speeds up to 100 gigabits per second. However, for the current mission, the terminal's speed was set to 10 gigabits per second to balance performance with cost-effectiveness, addressing most user needs.

The recent launch also marked the third instance of space missions conducted from the South China Sea, adding a new dimension to China's space launch capabilities with the inclusion of a foreign satellite among the payloads.

This diverse set of satellites, including NExSat-1, a collaborative project between Egypt's National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences and Germany's Berlin Space Technologies, underscores the international collaboration in space exploration and utilization.

The Smart Dragon 3 carrier rocket, central to this mission, represents a significant technological achievement for China. Standing 31 meters tall and capable of carrying up to 1.5 tons to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers, the Smart Dragon 3 is designed for clients needing rapid satellite deployment. Its flexibility and capacity for multiple satellite launches make it an attractive option for establishing space-based commercial networks swiftly.

This launch from the South China Sea, following two successful missions, highlights the strategic and commercial value of sea-based launch platforms, offering flexibility and efficiency in satellite deployment. With China having conducted 10 sea-based launches to date, this approach is becoming an integral part of the nation's expanding space launch capabilities.

As the global space community continues to explore and expand the frontiers of communication technology, the deployment of the two-way laser communication terminal by HiStarlink and AdaSpace represents a significant milestone. It not only demonstrates the technical prowess and collaborative spirit within China's space sector but also sets the stage for the next generation of space-based communication networks, promising faster, more secure data transfer capabilities that could revolutionize how we connect across the globe.

Based on a Xinhua News Agency article

Related Links
China National Space Agency
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

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