Starlink was introduced with the goal of expanding the reach of the Internet to every corner of the world, using a constellation of satellites to provide worldwide connectivity without using fiber or optical cables.
Despite the practical usefulness and good intentions that can be highlighted around this initiative, the Chinese government believes that the Starlink service could be a security threat to the country.
China Prepares to Eventually Shoot Down Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellites, Report Says
pocketnow reported this news citing a report from South China Morning Post, media outlet claiming that a team of Chinese researchers has published a document advising the Chinese government to develop anti-satellite capabilities, so that it can take down Starlink infrastructure if it deems it necessary. The research report states that China needs to develop a surveillance system that tracks and controls each Starlink satellite.
The aforementioned study was led by Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Monitoring and Telecommunications. The team also included researchers from China’s defense industry, the release note reports. South China Morning Post. “A combination of soft and hard removal methods should be adopted to render some Starlink satellites inoperable and destroy the constellation’s operating system,” notes the research paper.
Yuanzhen says that Starlink has the ability to improve the data transmission speed of US drones and stealth fighter jets by more than 100 times. Also, he points out that all Starlink satellites have ion thrusters that allow them to change orbits at high speed when attacked. Furthermore, if a satellite fails, Starlink is essentially resistant to attack, because the Internet constellation can function even when individual satellites are not properly enabled to function. Yuanzhen estimates that this could prove to be a critical asset in the event of war, thus posing a threat to the security of the nation.
The figure of Elon Musk around electric cars generated great popularity for the businessman in the Asian giant. However, the man behind Tesla has seen a decline in his popularity after two Starlink satellites were detected getting dangerously close to the Chinese space station last year. Since then, China’s Defense arm believes that its satellite Internet service could pose a major threat to the nation’s security.
Another precedent that raises alarms in China is that SpaceX signed a contract with the United States Department of Defense earlier this year to develop a new technology based on the Starlink platform to track hypersonic weapons in real time. This class of weaponry can travel up to five times the speed of sound.
Closing this idea, the report indicates that the unprecedented scale, complexity and flexibility of Starlink would force the Chinese military to develop new anti-satellite capabilities .
Until now, China has been developing various anti-satellite technologies that use microwaves to block communications between satellites or can directly burn their electronic components, according to Yuanzhen. The country’s Department of Defense has also developed lasers for blinding or damaging satellites, nanosatellites that can be launched in large numbers to cripple larger satellites, and cyber weapons to hack into the satellite communication network.
An eventual attack will always be subject to the steps taken between the United States and China, which in recent years have accumulated tension, among other factors, due to their commercial consolidation as powers, measured in developments like these.