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.
A paper, “The Development Status of Starlink and Its Countermeasures”, was published in China’s peer-reviewed journal Modern Defence Technology. It discussed how to deal with a military danger — specifically, military threats facilitated by considerably quicker communications — as well as what tools China would require to counter the Starlink constellation.
According to the lead author of the study, Ren Yuanzhen of the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, the Chinese military must be prepared to respond to Starlink’s expansion.
However, this paper which was accessible earlier, now reportedly has been taken down.
According to the paper, which is available on another site, a combination of soft and hard kill methods must be used so that Starlink satellites “lose their functions and destroy the constellation’s operating system,” citing reasons that it poses “hidden dangers and challenges” to China.
The authors also suggested that Starlink could go on the “offensive,” using the satellites’ ion thrusters to knock Chinese spacecraft or satellites out of orbit.
Here it should be noted that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is constructing the Starlink satellite constellation in low Earth orbit, with the goal of providing high-speed internet to any location on the planet. Specifically, the plan anticipates launching 42,000 satellites into orbit with its Falcon 9 rockets. However, only 2,300 Starlink satellites in orbit are said to be operational.
It is believed that the main issue with the satellites is that there are far too many of them and destroying them would necessitate a massive number of anti-satellite missiles to destroy Starlink’s constellation. But, taking out one or two satellites will not cause the entire system to fail.
It is understood that China is concerned about the constellation after two Starlink satellites came dangerously close to colliding with the country’s Tianhe space station last year.
The space station had to move away from both accidents because Chinese astronauts were on board.
Chinese scientists are concerned that SpaceX may soon dominate low Earth orbit, allowing the US military to gain control of a valuable area of space. Even in March, China voiced concern over Musk’s use of Starlink to supply the internet to Ukraine during the ongoing Russian invasion.
As reported earlier, SpaceX sent thousands of Starlink satellite internet kits to Ukraine. However, Musk sent Starlink terminals after Ukrainian official Mykhailo Fedorov requested assistance from the billionaire while Russia’s attacks disrupted internet service in the country.
However, following his support for Ukraine, Musk warned in an interview that taking down Starlink would be difficult due to its 2,000 satellites, which he claimed also have “a lot of anti-satellite missiles”.