Bejing is planning to put the 192 Earth observation satellites into orbit by 2021 in a “constellation” which will be known as Xingshidai, a report by China Central Television suggested. The broadcaster cited one source as saying: “It is safe to say that the satellites still remain remotely controlled devices. “That is, they do not have the autopilot function.
“It is expected that the developers will equip the new Leo satellite system such capacity.”
The Leo satellites will be designed for environmental monitoring, disaster prevention, and traffic management.
AI technology will process images captured by the satellites using multiple resolution sensors.
In this way, poor quality images will be weeded out, and only useful data will be relayed back to Earth.
The satellites are likely to be launching using Chinese Julang-1 booster rockets, which designed for commercial launches.
The Julang-1 is capable of putting one or several satellites weighing up to 330 pounds (150 kilogrammes) into orbit at an altitude of 372 miles (600 kilometres).
Developers estimate the cost of one launch of the Julong-1 to be roughly 25 million yuan (£2.87million).
The satellites are being built by ADASpace, a private Chinese company based in Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
Project manager Wang Long told China’s Global Times newspaper yesterday: “The coordinated smart system will independently analyse the data it obtains rapidly and decide what data should be sent back to the ground, or what orders it should carry out for the next step.
“This could shorten the time that would otherwise be needed to receive orders from the ground for every little move.”
Space technology expert Huang Zhicheng told the Global Times on Sunday the Xingshidai project was evidence of China’s rapidly developing aerospace industry.
However, he said to fully realise AI management of satellite constellations, China would need more technological breakthroughs in areas computer chips, radar and optical devices.
China carried out its first-ever successful launch of the Chang Zheng 11 carrier rocket with seven spacecraft on board from a floating launch platform last month.
Prior to this, in January, China reported it had successfully landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.
China is also planning to launch its Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover next year, as well as other probes which will survey Jupiter, to arrive in 2036, and Uranus, to arrive in the 2040s.
However, Spacenews.com website reported last month major space missions including the Mars orbiter mission could be delayed by an apparent issue affecting Long March 5 rockets required for launches.