China is the latest entity to announce the construction of a low earth orbit (LEO) communications network. State agency Xinhua.Net reports the first satellite of the Hongyan constellation is scheduled to be launched this year by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
The Hongyan constellation will be made up of "more than" 300 satellites and be built in three stages. Reporting from GBtimes says this year trials of terminals and ground stations should take place this year, with a completed network in 2021.
Initially, the Hongyan network was going to be 60 small satellites delivering ground data collection and exchange suitable for Internet of Things (IoT0, AIS ship tracking, mobile broadcasting, and navigation signal enhancements for China's Beidou GPS constellation, according to a 2016 story in China Daily.
GBtimes suggests the expansion from 60 to 300 satellites is due in part to a deal with Thailand Kasetart University, covering satellite infrastructure, ground infrastructure and building small satellite R&D capabilities in Thailand. CASC is "open to further cooperation with other companies and countries and around the world."