China Deploying "Constellation" of AI Satellites to Monitor Earth

China Central Television has stated China has plans to unleash 192 Earth observation satellites into orbit by the year 2021, in a so-called “constellation” which shall be named “Xingshidai”.

A satellite constellation, also called a satellite swarm, is a system of satellites that work together to achieve a single purpose.

A satellite constellation, also called a satellite swarm, is a system of satellites that work together to achieve a single purpose.

These “Leo” satellites will be created for environmental monitoring, disaster prevention and traffic management. Images taken using their multiple resolution sensors would be processed using AI; thus, poor quality and low resolution images can be removed so only the useful ones are relayed back to planet Earth.

In all likelihood, the satellites will be launched using the Chinese-made Julang-1, a type of booster rocket designed specifically for commercial operations. The Julang-1 is able to carry one or more satellites weighing up to 150kg into orbit (at an altitude of 600 kilometres). The cost of a single launch of the Julong-1 is estimated to be around £2.87 million (25 million yuan).

The Julang-1 was China's first generation nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

The Julang-1 was China's first generation nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

ADASpace, a private company located in Chengdu (the capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province), is responsible for the construction of the satellites.

The coordinated smart system will independently analyse the data it obtains rapidly and decide what data should be sent back to the ground, or what orders it should carry out for the next step. This could shorten the time that would otherwise be needed to receive orders from the ground for every little move.
— Wang Long, Project Manager

Huang Zhicheng, an expert on space technology, stated the Xingshidai project was clear evidence of the meteorically-expanding nature of China’s aerospace sector, but the country will need more technological breakthroughs in areas such as computer chips and radar to fully achieve AI-managed satellite constellations.

Furthermore, next year China is planning to launch its Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover, with survey probes for Jupiter (estimated in 2036) and Uranus (estimated in 2040s) in development.