Foxconn launches its first LEO satellites

Sheila Zabeu -

November 13, 2023

The giant Foxconn, formerly known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and for its experience in operating various manufacturing plants for electronic products such as servers, laptops, and mobile phones for various brands, has launched its foray into another universe, space. The company launched its first PEARL-1H and PEARL-1C Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the early hours of 12 November (Taiwan time).

Manufactured in-house, the satellites were launched during the Transporter-9 mission from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California (USA). Foxconn signed an agreement with Exolaunch to guarantee mission management, orbital deployment hardware and other services for its first satellites.

The new PEARL-1H and PEARL-1C cubesats were built by Foxconn in collaboration with the National Central University  (NCU), with scientific research and educational training in Earth-space radio channel experiments in Taiwan in mind. They are the size of a rucksack and weigh around 9 kg each. They are designed to orbit the Earth every 96 minutes at an altitude of 520 kilometres.

According to Foxconn, the initiative is a proof of concept for efforts in broadband communication via LEO satellites. Foxconn’s first PEARL is intended to show that the company is ready to meet the growth in demand for components, subsystems and assembly integration tests, driving innovation in the new space industry. The launch is also a demonstration that the electronics manufacturer is seeking to diversify its operations by investing in new sectors.

According to an article in Bloomberg, Foxconn is betting on manufacturing satellites mainly for corporate and government clients. “We needed to find something from which Foxconn could grow over the next 10 to 15 years,” said Liu, the company’s CEO, in an interview with the publication.

Last August, during a conference call with investors, Foxconn chairman Liu had also announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft around a global satellite system in low earth orbit. The aim is to create a space Internet solution for three main applications: vehicles, smart cities and Beyond 5G (B5G) communications infrastructure.

Data factory

Foxconn also recently announced that it is collaborating with NVidia to accelerate the industrial revolution fuelled by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The company will integrate NVidia technologies to develop a new class of datacenters that power a wide range of applications in the manufacturing universe, from the digitization of manufacturing and inspection workflows to the development of electric vehicles and robotic platforms powered by AI.

The collaboration will begin with the creation of AI factories, a computing infrastructure based on NVidia GPUs specially built to process, refine and transform large volumes of data into valuable AI models.

“A new type of manufacturing will emerge — the production of intelligence. And the datacenters that will produce them will be AI factories. Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer, has the expertise and scale to build AI factories around the world. We are very excited to expand our decade-long partnership with Foxconn and accelerate the AI industrial revolution,” says Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVidia.

Working closely with NVidia, Foxconn is to build many systems based on NVidia CPUs, GPUs and networking solutions for its global customer base that wants to create and operate its own AI factories. With these systems, Foxconn’s customers will be able to exploit NVidia’s computing architecture to rely on Generative AI services and to accelerate the training of autonomous machines, including industrial robots and self-driving cars.