What Crazy Ideas does China’s First Private Satellite Carry?

China’s first private satellite named Fengmaniu-1 was launched on February 2, 2018. The owner is Feng Lun, chairman of YuFeng Capital.

The satellite is as large as a shoe box, and weighs 4 kg. Its efficiency is 8w, and it is equipped with 4-k cameras. The satellite can demonstrate panoramic view of the space. It costs about $1 million to make this satellite. Carried on CZ-2 rocket, the satellite was launched into the orbit which is 500 kilometers high in the space.

In the future, the satellite will transit China three times a day to transmit images and audio in real time.

According to Feng’s initial bold ideas, the satellite could make live broadcast in space and explore new ways of media. “If we have a satellite in the sky and can live broadcast Moonset Eclipse on February 1 and let audience pay for watching it. It would be very profitable,” said Feng.

It’s a pity that the satellite failed to add function. There is not only difficulties in technology, live broadcast also involves approval and license issued by multiple departments. It might take long time. As the launch time is set, the satellite could only carry on what has been approved.

Feng said the satellite is basically an attempt, and is mainly used for public welfare and education. He will add more functions in future satellites.

“In the decades before mobile phones became popular, humans have launched satellites many times.” Feng reminds us of this simple fact.

The first satellite was launched in 1957, while the first cell phone was born in 1973. Today in China, every 100 people own 96 handsets on average. It could be said that all ordinary family have mobile phones. And satellite has been used in military, meteorology, GPS and so on, but every time I look at the deep space in silent nights, I think we could have done more with satellite.

Back to the sci-fi movies produced decades ago, characters still used the wired telephone to talk to each other, but they explored interstellar space. Because there is reason for optimism. The first man-made satellite was launched in 1957, and the first probe to the moon was launched in 1959. Gagarin went into the space in 1961, and Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. One small step after another, we walked so fast.

When the cold war between the U.S. the Soviet Union came to an end, the pace of human exploring the universe slowed abruptly. If a person from the 1960s travelled to 2018, he would probably say, wow, iPhone X is cool, but have humans not yet gone out of the solar system? Did you head to wrong direction in tech development in the past 50 years?

“We want a flying car, but we only receive 140 words,” said Peter Thiel.

Business seems to lead technology to a wrong direction, but business seems to take over the baton from the government in space exploration.

Musk, who worked for Paypal, now works on the launch and recycle of rockets at SpaceX, in a bid to reduce the cost of human access to space. There are also increasingly commercial satellite companies globally, committed to exploring more interaction between ground terminals and satellites.

They are so far away from profit that some even have lost their profit models and some have failed.

It may be recalled that, in 1992, Mou Qizhong founded to Nande Commercial Satellite Company, working on satellite launch program. Nande developed Hangxiang No.1, the world’s first live TV broadcast satellite. However, due to disputes, Mo had to sell satellite shares at a sacrifice.

People might remember Motorola Iridium Plan, aiming to build a global mobile communication system by launching 66 satellites. However, the plan failed as it couldn’t make ends meet.

A few years ago, Feng wrote an article saying that commercially, launching a satellite was not feasible.

Now, Feng tries to find out if there is any new business logic available.

Someone say he burned the money. Someone says it is hype. But when some people say that business is profit-driven and short-sighted, I’m sure to tell him the stories of the satellites.

This article originally appeared in Wu Xiaobo and was translated by Pandaily.