China’s military-industrial complex is set to begin building its first constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in a bid to catch up with SpaceX’s Starlink, reports Reuters.

The creation of a group of Chinese low-orbit satellites is entrusted to the state-owned company China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC), which manufactures spacecraft, launch vehicles, and strategic and tactical combat missiles for the People’s Liberation Army of China. The launch of the first satellites of the constellation is scheduled for September 2023. China plans to place them in an orbit with an altitude of 150-300 km. There is no information yet on the total number of devices that will be part of this group.

Back in 2020, CASIC said it planned to build a fleet of nearly 13,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, but so far things have been going very slowly. According to analysts, China currently has no more than a few hundred LEO satellites, and by 2027, their number will reach only 4,000 at best.

China’s interest in its own low-orbit satellites, capable of distributing the Internet, is caused by successful examples of the use of Starlink by the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the current Russian-Ukrainian war.

As a reminder, as of February 2023, SpaceX Starlink has 3,580 satellites in orbit, including new Starlink v2.0 with increased bandwidth.