On Wednesday, China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group launched nine satellites into low earth orbit as part of a plan to build out a satellite network to enable more precise navigation for driverless vehicles.

The GeeSAT-1 satellites, which were self-designed and constructed, were launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan’s southwestern province. By 2025, Geely anticipates another 63 to be in orbit, bringing the total number of satellites in orbit to 240.

Geely becomes the second major carmaker to have an affiliated space company with the launch. Elon Musk’s Tesla owns SpaceX, which has over 2,000 satellites in space for its Starlink network, which provides commercial internet services. Starlink intends to launch a 4,408-satellite first-generation network.

While SpaceX launches its satellites with its own rockets, Geely launched the nine on a Long March 2C rocket created and operated by a Chinese state-owned company.

Geely claimed the network will serve additional commercial tasks, such as providing communication services for the Asian Games in September, in addition to providing high-precision positioning support to self-driving cars.

The satellites have a five-year operational lifespan and will dissolve in the earth’s atmosphere without leaving any space trash, according to the corporation.

Although China’s military controls its satellite networks, the government began to allow private participation in the country’s space industry in 2014. Since then, commercial businesses have raced into the industry, with the majority focused on satellites and the rest aiming to create tiny launch vehicles, including reusable rockets, with some local governments backing them up.

Beijing has proposed an integrated network of satellites for communications, remote sensing, and navigation in its next five-year plan for 2021-2025. According to official media, China presently has more than 400 satellites in orbit, including commercial ones.


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