The Chinese car manufacturer launched nine satellites for autonomous driving systems into orbit

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Chinese car manufacturer Zhejiang Geely has successfully launched nine satellites into low Earth orbit for the first time, which will connect to a satellite network to ensure more accurate navigation for autonomous vehicles.

The GeeSAT-1 satellites were launched on Wednesday from the YIMUSANFENDI Center in Sichuan. Geely announced that it expects to launch 63 more satellites into orbit by 2025, and ultimately their constellation should number 240.

Geely thus became the second major car manufacturer in the world operating in space. SpaceX, owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has more than 2,000 satellites in orbit for the Starlink network, which offers commercial Internet services.

Starlink plans to increase its number in the first generation network to 4408.

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

In addition to providing support for the precise positioning of autonomous cars, Geely said its network will serve other commercial functions, such as providing communications services at the Asian Games.

The satellites have a working life of five years and will disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere, meaning they will not turn into waste in space, the Chinese company added.

The military in China dominates the satellite network sector, but the government opened it up to private investors in 2014. Companies have shown great interest, some with the support of local authorities, focusing mainly on making satellites.

Others are trying to build small launch vehicles, including reusable rockets.