Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink satellite can transmit super-fast internet data anywhere on Earth, and it also has potential military applications. Chinese military researchers have been developing a plan to destroy thousands of Starlink satellites.
According to Business Insider, in an article from Modern Defense Technology magazine published in China last month, the author said that China needs to develop the ability to track and monitor and, if necessary, be able to destroy all Starlink satellites in Earth’s orbit.
The report was written by Ren Yuanzhen and co-authored by several senior scientists from the Chinese defense industry. Ren is a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications Technology (BITTT) under the Space Systems Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ‘s Strategic Support Force.
The article states: “It is recommended to apply a combination of soft and hard killing methods to disable some Starlink satellites and destroy their operating systems,” indicating that it is necessary to find a way to combat the entire “Starlink” system, not just a single satellite.”
According to ET Telecom, SpaceX has signed a contract with the US Department of Defense to use the Starlink platform for military purposes, including developing sensitive devices capable of detecting and tracking mobile hypersonic weapons that travel five times as fast as the speed of sound in Earth’s atmosphere. Beijing is known to be developing such weapons.
The researchers are also concerned that the Starlink constellation could be weaponized to detect and track Chinese satellites and missiles and even impact them. It is written in the report that: “In addition, the Starlink satellite has strong maneuverability to change the orbit and can also be equipped with orbiting devices such as robotic arms to approach and destroy targets in space.”.
The researchers estimate that the data transfer rates of US military drones and stealth fighters are 100 times faster over the Starlink connection, leading them to conclude that, despite bringing many benefits to the planet, they believe those Starlink satellites pose a potential threat to China’s national security.
Researcher Ren said the Chinese government urgently needs to develop super-sharp space surveillance satellites to monitor the Starlink system, improve its ability to intercept and analyze data during transmission to prevent threats, and expand the ability to destroy satellites.
Despite the risk of space debris interfering with other operations, he believes China should strengthen its satellite-killing skills and make it cost-effective to clear targets as diverse as Starlink.
“This calls for a number of low-cost, high-performance approaches,” the researchers said, without elaborating on these methods.
According to widely available information, China has been developing anti-satellite technology, including microwaves that can interfere with communications or burn electronic components, blinding or damaging satellites. Beijing has also worked to build its own internet satellite network and has launched a similar project called the “Star Network,” which aims to provide internet access worldwide.
According to Science Times, China and Russia have recently been interested in SpaceX. State-controlled Chinese media said the expansion of Starlink’s space footprint should put the “international community” on “high alert.”
In the opposite direction, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency, warned Elon Musk of retaliation if he provided an Internet connection to Ukraine.
Rogozin said via The Blast: “Elon Musk, thus, is involved in submitting the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment. And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult – no matter how much you’ll play the fool.”
Musk then joked about Russian forces assassinating him. He tweeted, “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya.”
Elon Musk thinks it will be difficult for rivals like Russia and China to destroy his company’s Starlink satellite. According to Science Times, Musk mentioned an earlier anti-satellite test conducted by Russia in an interview.
This test used Russia’s PL-19 Nudol anti-ballistic missile interceptor (DA-AST) to demonstrate its anti-satellite capability to destroy an old satellite of its own.
In March, Musk said: “If you attempt to take out Starlink, this is not easy because there are 2,000 satellites”.
He added: “That means a lot of anti-satellite missiles. I hope we don’t have to put this to a test, but I think we can launch satellites faster than they can launch anti-satellite missiles.”
According to National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, traditional geostationary orbiting satellites have to operate in giant orbits 22,236 miles from Earth; they have relatively comprehensive coverage. The Starlink satellites orbit only a few miles from Earth, so they cover a much smaller area, but their large numbers make up for that.
The Starlink satellite played a huge role in the Russia-Ukraine war, allowing Ukrainian troops and civilians to stay connected to the world even when Russia tried to cut off Ukraine’s electricity and internet. At a time of tension in the Taiwan Strait, the Starlink satellite has become a significant concern to the Chinese Communist Party.