In the Chinese peer-reviewed scientific journal Modern Defense Technology, researcher Ren Yuanzhen from the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications has published an article addressing the “Starlink problem.” According to the scientist, the Chinese military needs to develop ways to counter any threat posed by Elon Musk’s network.
Image source: starlink.com
Image source: starlink.com
At the moment, the original material has been withdrawn from the public domain for unknown reasons, but its translation into English is available on a third-party resource, in addition, South China Morning Post, now part of the Alibaba Group, wrote about this article. The scientist says that Starlink presents “hidden dangers and challenges” for China, and therefore it is proposed to develop a “combination of soft and hard destruction methods” to disable some satellites and the constellation as a whole. The author also expresses concern that the project vehicles may go on the “offensive” and start knocking Chinese satellites and spacecraft out of orbit.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX company is building a constellation of Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit (from 328 to 614 km), designed to provide high-speed Internet to subscribers located almost anywhere in the world. To date, about 2,400 vehicles have been put into orbit, but in the end it is planned to increase their number to 42,000.
The American scientist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was approached by journalists from the Gizmodo resource, acknowledged the validity of the fears of the Chinese specialist: “If you serve in the armed forces of a country whose job is to think about war in space, you see Starlink as a different kind of problem.”
The main problem is that there are too many satellites, and in order to eliminate the entire group, a huge number of anti-satellite missiles will have to be sent into orbit – the destruction of one, two, or even several dozen will not disable the entire system. In addition, SpaceX will replace several downed units without much difficulty. “Replacing a Starlink satellite is cheaper than launching an anti-satellite missile,” McDowell concluded.
Mr. Musk’s project has seriously alarmed Beijing after its vehicles almost crashed into the Chinese Tiangong station with taikonauts on board twice last year – in both cases, it was the station that had to perform evasive maneuvers. The authors of the article are concerned that Starlink may soon fill all of low Earth orbit altogether, and the private company SpaceX managing the project, in fact, can help the Pentagon to dominate this valuable piece of space. In early May, the China Military edition of the Central Military Council of the People’s Republic of China published material, the authors of which recalled that Starlink can not only provide communication to ground subscribers, but also interact with drones.
Elon Musk, who agreed to place Starlink terminals in Ukraine, admitted in a March interview with Business Insider that his spacecraft could become a target: “If you try to disable Starlink, it will not be easy, because we have 2,000 satellites. This means [it will require] a lot of anti-satellite missiles. I hope we don’t have to test this, but I think we can launch satellites faster than they can send anti-satellite missiles.”