China’s Rivalry With Musk’s SpaceX Moves to Even Lower Orbit

(Bloomberg) -- China is taking its rivalry with Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites to a new level.

While notching major wins such as landing on Mars and operating its own space station, China trails the world’s richest man in low-Earth orbit — a zone within 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) of the planet’s surface that’s become increasingly attractive for companies like SpaceX offering high-speed internet access.

SpaceX has deployed more than 5,000 communications satellites at an altitude of around 550 kilometers, but China has made little progress on its own ambitious plans to build a state-owned 13,000-satellite LEO constellation.

Musk’s company is poised to expand its lead even further with a second launch of its massive Starship rocket, which is capable of launching SpaceX’s bigger next-generation Starlink satellites.

The US Federal Aviation Administration reinstated SpaceX’s launch license on Wednesday and the company has scheduled a flight test Saturday at 8 a.m. local time from its site in Boca Chica, Texas.