China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, better known as Geely, has launched the first nine spacecraft into Earth orbit, which will form the basis of a satellite network to ensure more accurate navigation of the company’s autonomous vehicles.

The GeeSAT-1 satellites, developed and manufactured by Geespace, were launched into orbit by the Long March 2C rocket from the Xichang Spaceport on June 2, 2022 at 4:00 AM Coordinated Universal Time.  Another 63 satellites will be launched by 2025, and the planned size of the entire constellation is 240 spacecraft.

Thus, the Chinese Geely becomes the world’s second largest automaker to have its own satellites.  Tesla can be considered the first, given the close connection between Tesla and SpaceX.  We remind that SpaceX now has more than 2,400 Starlink satellites in Earth orbit, and the first-generation network has a total of 4,408 satellites.

Chinese automaker Geely launched 9 satellites to support self-driving cars

According to Geely, in addition to providing high-precision positioning for self-driving cars, their network can perform other commercial functions, such as providing communication services at the Asian Games in September 2022. GeeSAT-1 satellites have a service life of years and will burn in the Earth’s atmosphere, leaving no space debris, the company says.

At present, China’s satellite network consists primarily of military vehicles, but the Chinese government began supporting private investment in space in 2014.  In the last five-year plan for 2021-2025, Beijing called on entrepreneurs to create an integrated network of satellites for communication, remote sensing and navigation.  According to state media, China now has more than 400 satellites in orbit, only a small proportion of which are commercial.

We should note that Zhejiang Geely Holding Group owns such well-known car brands as Lotus (51%), Smart (50%), Volvo (82%), London Electric Vehicle Company (formerly The London Taxi Corporation), Geely (Geely, Geometry, Lynk)  & amp; Co, Proton Cars) and others.  At the end of 2021, Geely ranked 17th in the list of the world’s largest automakers.