China Launches Classified Satellites with IoT Implications

Naomi R. 

In late July, China launched three Yangan 30 satellites into orbit, with the intention of “surveying the electromagnetic environment and verify relevant technologies by adopting multi-satellite network mode.” According to, very few details of the Yangan satellites were released, which are understood to be Chinese military recoinassance satellites.

Aboard the flight was Tianqi 15, a small satellite designed for IoT data collection by Beijing Guodan Gaoke, a Beijing-based commercial enterprise.


Launching the Apocalypse

The Tianqi satellites comprise the Apocalypse constellation, with 14 satellites in orbit. Apocalypse is said to be China’s first low-orbit constellation for IoT. With Tianqi 15’s launch into space, it meets two goals:

  1. Data collection can now be done at an hour-and-a-half interval. Since most IoT application scenarios do not require real-time communication, a time-return rate meets a large part of business needs.
  2. The launch of the 15th satellite marks the ground terminal’s operating power reducing to 100 milliwatts. An IoT ground terminal that can communicate with the low-orbit Apocalypse satellite has a higher power consumption than that of the mobile phone. That said, it opens up opportunities for IoT machinery to be miniaturized. It also holds promise for even lower power consumption and even minimized costs. 

Meeting these requirements entails better network coverage for navigation, aviation, and remote areas without network coverage on land.

The 38 satellites that make up the Apocalypse constellation will all be in orbit by the end of 2022. Guodan, the company behind Apocalypse, hopes that the overall launch “will realize the global coverage of the Internet of Things constellation system, with real-time time resolution, and the power consumption of ground terminals as low as 0.05 watts.” The company also adds that Apocalypse will provide high-quality global IoT data communication services for more industries and the satellite IoT industry in China. 


Beefing up the national economy

China is already predicted to surpass the United States in becoming the world’s largest IoT market. Research from the International Data Corporation has shown that the nation’s spending on IoT is estimated to reach USD 300 billion by 2024, with a CAGR of 13% in the next five years.

The Made in China 2025 plan, geared towards minimized dependence on foreign technology and enhanced effectiveness in the local manufacturing industry, involves an opportunity to integrate current production processes with the internet. According to research by Accenture, “the government has introduced its Internet Plus strategy to integrate the country’s mobile internet, cloud computing, big data and IoT initiatives to promote the extensive application of IT and smart technologies.” Other than manufacturing, Accenture also identified government services and the resource industry to be the top contributors for IoT’s cumulative impact on China’s GDP by 2030. 

Utilizing the Apocalypse satellites and integrating smart technology into local businesses would cement China’s competitiveness in the IoT market. Once the country leverages the full capabilities of the Internet of Things, they can very well be a major player in the inception and manufacture of IoT globally.

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