China is reportedly planning to launch nearly 13,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit as part of its “GW” project. The goal of the project is to compete directly with and monitor SpaceX’s Starlink constellations.
The China Satellite Network Group Co, is behind the project and hopes to quickly launch a total of 12,992 small satellites into orbit. This would dwarf Starlink’s current count of around 3,500 satellites, although SpaceX aims to have over 12,000 satellites in orbit by 2027 and a total count of 40,000 orbiting devices eventually.
Researchers at the People’s Liberation Army’s Space Engineering University in Beijing believe the project is necessary to prevent Starlink from dominating low-Earth orbit space and preventing other countries from occupying the area.
While the initiative has the potential to increase internet coverage and communication efficiency around the world, such a large number of satellites in orbit has raised concerns among astronomers who fear the reflectivity of the devices could interfere with data collection.
The China Satellite Network Group Co has also made claims about wanting to track and potentially disable Starlink satellites with their own constellations.
Researchers involved with the group are concerned about Starlink satellites’ maneuverability, and claim that the ability might be used to target and destroy other objects in space. By launching its own fleet of devices, China hopes to be able to match that potential and gain opportunities and advantages at other orbital altitudes while preventing Starlink from excessively pre-empting low-orbit resources.
With China’s rapidly expanding space program and ambitions to establish a permanent presence on the Moon, this latest development underscores the country’s intention to assert itself as a major player in the space race. The move also highlights the growing competition among nations and private companies to dominate the growing space industry, estimated to be worth billions of dollars in the coming years.