Chinese Space engineering firm currently testing its production capacity, production to commence in March

According to reports, the Space Engineering Development (SED), a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), has begun testing its satellite manufacturing infrastructure. The firm, established in 2018, is based in Wuhan, Hubei province.

The design and construction of the SED plant took approximately 14 months, according to the firm’s general manager, Zou Guangbao. Upon completion, the plant will be producing about 240 small satellites annually. The Chinese administration is on a mission to launch spacecraft to space to keep up with the pace set by other industry pioneers such as Russia, the US, and the EU.

The SED was established to enable the Chinese government to manufacture small communication satellites for the Hongyun project. The project seeks to launch around 150 small communication satellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for broadband internet access globally.

The Hongyun program was initiated in 2016, and two years down the line, the first Hongyun satellite was transported to space abode the Long March 11 carrier space vehicle. The successful launch was carried out at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia. The Launch facility is also referred to as the Dongfeng Aerospace City.

The process of building a satellite is a long one and involves component installation, satellite assembly, electronic and mechanical tests, said SED’s project manager, Liu Feng. The ongoing construction will be manually operated, including all these steps. “By comparison, our plants use robots to perform major steps, which means we can improve the average manufacturing efficiency for satellites by more than 40 percent,” said Feng.

The Wuhan-based plant is a research and development center for creating satellites, taking a keen interest in satellites’ structure and thermal control. Apart from satellites, the plant will work on other space products in the future.

The Chinese government regards broadband connectivity highly and has invested a lot in satellite communication. Apart from the state-owned projects, the government also funds private developers to augment the government’s efforts. For instance, it funds Spacety, a satellite communication designer and manufacturer based in Changsha, Hunan Province. Both SED and Spacety are required to produce over 100 satellites each per year.

Satellite communication offers reliable signal strength for telecommunications, broadcasting, and data communication. China has strived to ramp up its satellite communication sector. In January this year, it launched the Tiantong 1-03 mobile telecommunication satellite into the LEO. The payload was carried by a Long March 3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. China’s satellites will provide reliable connectivity for voice calls, messaging, and data connection across Asia, Middle East, Africa, and other underserved regions.