China to launch first software-based satellite

Updated 2018-04-09 09:16:24

Tianzhi-1 uses internet's open source, ready for public use

China's first software-based satellite will be launched in the second half of the year, which will largely benefit the public as well as serve national defense, experts said.

Software-based satellite, which takes advantage of the internet's open source, can work in a way similar to the Android operating system to research and develop its software and hardware. Customers can use the platform to develop, test and debug software, according to an article released on the Chinese Academy of Sciences' (CAS) website.

"The satellite Tianzhi-1 will be sent mainly to lay the foundation for a network and to test key technologies for the software-defined satellite system. We are planning to send one satellite each year to enrich the system," Zhao Junsuo, a research fellow at the CAS Institute of Software where the satellite was developed, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Software-defined satellites' operating system is software-based and open to public use, unlike traditional satellites, Zhao said, adding that the satellite could also be used in national defense.

The Tianzhi-1 project, supported by CAS' Bureau of Major R&D Program, formally began in 2017 and is expected to be launched in the second half of the year and will conduct in-orbit experimental verification, chinanews.com reported Saturday.

"Tianzhi-1 can process data in orbit before sending them back to Earth for different uses, and is capable of automatic operations which can also reduce the pressure of the satellite control system on the ground," Zhao said.

An environmental protection organization which needs to inspect water pollution, for example, can rent one such satellite that can provide high-definition pictures of the area. Combining uploaded software, the organization can obtain the results and estimate how fast pollution is spreading, the article said.

"Unlike satellites with a single function, software-defined satellites can meet multiple demands from different customers by changing and updating software, which can largely reduce the costs," Zhang Baoxin, an expert at China Aviation News, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Tianzhi-1 will carry a small cloud computing platform including four China's homemade smartphones which have strong calculation capability and is energy efficient. The satellite is capable of providing images of space and Earth, Zhao said, adding that Tianzhi-2 and Tianzhi-3 are already being developed.

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