China is becoming increasingly concerned about SpaceX’s domination of low Earth orbit
In the event that SpaceX’s Starlink satellites pose a threat, Chinese military researchers want their country to be prepared to disable, if not fully destroy, the massive internet constellation. It’s a terrifying prospect, but one that’s easier said than done.
Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher with the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, argues in a research paper published in China’s peer-reviewed journal Modern Defence Technology and reported on by the state-run South China Morning Post this past Wednesday, that the Chinese military should develop ways to counteract any threat posed by Starlink. The publication was readily available just recently, but it appears to have been taken down. However, you may find a translated version of the article online.
“A combination of soft and hard kill techniques should be used to disable some Starlink satellites and destroy the constellation’s operating system,” the document says, citing “hidden threats and problems” for China. The authors of the new article also warn the possibility of Starlink’s aggression and use the satellites’ ion engines to blast Chinese spacecraft or satellites out of orbit.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is constructing the Starlink satellite constellation in low Earth orbit, which will deliver better internet to almost any location on the planet. The company’s Falcon 9 rockets are expected to be used to launch up to 42,000 satellites into orbit, with around 2,300 operational Starlink satellites already in space.
The essential issue with the Starlink satellites is that due to their number, a massive number of anti-satellite missiles to eliminate the entire constellation is required.
Taking out a few, or even a few dozen, will not bring down the entire system. Furthermore, SpaceX would have no trouble reinstalling a few lost units. “Replacing a Starlink satellite is cheaper than replacing an anti-satellite missile,” McDowell added.
After two Starlink satellites nearly collided with China’s Tianhe space station in 2021, China became extra cautious of the constellation. With Chinese astronauts on board, the space station had to move out of the way on both instances.
The authors of a recent research are concerned that SpaceX could soon overwhelm low Earth orbit, and that the private firm will assist the US military in gaining control of this valuable space. After Musk’s deployment of Starlink to support Ukraine amid the continuing Russian assault, China’s military has voiced its concerns. After Russian soldiers damaged cell towers in March, Starlink began providing internet access to residents in Ukraine.
Musk has been vocal about the possibility of Starlink being attacked as a result of his support for Ukraine. “Trying to take out Starlink is difficult because there are 2,000 satellites.” In an interview, Musk remarked, “That means a lot of anti-satellite missiles.” “I hope we don’t have to put this to the test, but I believe we can deploy satellites faster than they can launch missiles.”
The actual danger is turning low Earth orbit into a space battleground or overwhelming our planet’s surroundings with satellites. The US military is developing its own plans for a constellation of tiny satellites in low Earth orbit. to support military activities. Meanwhile, China is working on its own satellite internet megaconstellation projects.