New satellite launched, to cover high-speed rail with WiFi
Shijian-13, China's first high-throughput communications satellite, is launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province at 7:04 p.m., April 12, 2017. [Photo: China Plus/Liu Yiyao]
A new communications satellite that will play an important role during emergencies - while also improving passenger services on high-speed rail lines and airplanes - has been launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China.
Shijian-13, with a transfer capacity of 20 Gbps and a designed orbital life of 15 years, has a higher message capacity than all of China's previous communications satellites combined.
Chief Designer Liu Fang says the satellite will ensure smooth telecommunications on almost all means of transportation.
"The Shijian-13 satellite, based on the concept of integration between space and ground, could ensure a 'satellite communication on the move' on a vehicle running at a high-speed. Through the no-gap multi-beam switching technology together with the automatic tracking or capture function of the terminal end loaded on the vehicle, it will provide much better Internet access for passengers on planes, ships or trains."
He says the satellite should, to some extent, solve the issue that has prevented internet access on many flights, ships, and rail lines due to the deficiency of ground-based mobile communications systems.
"Passengers on a plane cannot get access to the Internet inside the cabin, while the cell phone signal on a high-speed train is rather intermittent, and there's basically no telecommunication service on a ship after it leaves the port, leaving passengers unable to surf the Internet. All those issues are due to the ground-based mobile communication systems' inability to fully cover all parts of the vehicles, or their signals have to switch frequently if the vehicle arrives at different regions, thus making it difficult to provide services on high-speed transport systems."
The satellite will also aid people who are lost, or at the scene of natural disasters, to better report on emergencies.
Zhou Zhicheng, commander-in-chief of Shijian-13, said it will ensure smooth communications during rescue operations in an emergency.
"Statistics show that more than 60 million people in China take part in activities such as hiking and climbing every year, but they sometimes get lost at some outdoor areas where the signal for telecommunication is very weak or even unavailable. The terminal end of Shijian-13 satellite for users is small and portable, if the ground-based telecom cable is broken during a natural disaster, users can directly contact the satellite through the terminal end and lower the loss as much as possible."
According to Zhou, Shijian-13 is the first Chinese satellite to be powered by electricity, potentially improving efficiency by as much as 10 times compared with those using chemicals as propellant.
A large number of domestic components have been used, and it also has the first laser communication system installed on a Chinese high orbit satellite with a long lifespan.
China plans to launch 6 communications satellites this year, including Shijian-18 set to be put into orbit in June to test the DFH-5 satellite platform.