China should be able to disable or destroy the Starlink satellites of SpaceX if they pose a threat to national security. At least that is the view of a group of Chinese military researchers who have just published an article in a national scientific journal, Modern Defence Technologies, in which they propose a series of countermeasures aimed at undermining the U.S. satellite network.
Starlink currently has about 25,000 satellites, a high-speed Internet service that has grown exponentially over the past three months and now has more than 400,000 users around the world, but this success does not seem to be encouraging to Yuanjeng Rehn, a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, who has just written a paper describing ways to develop China's anti-satellite capabilities.
"," they write in a paper, reports South China Morning Post, in particular the creation of a large-scale highly sensitive surveillance system to track each of Starlink's satellites, and it is not yet known whether this document reflects the official position of the entire Chinese government.
Ilon Musk has always enjoyed the sympathy and even admiration of Chinese, who are particularly interested in technology.
In addition to the large amount of space debris that already poses a constant threat to space stations and ships, the proliferation of Starlink minisatellites exacerbates the situation; every week they engage in almost 1,600 close collisions with spacecraft! Hugh Lewis, the head of the astronautics research team at Southampton University in Great Britain, believes that, over time, Starlink will participate in 90 per cent of all close proximity at a distance of less than one kilometre.
But Rena and his co-authors are concerned about not so much the heightened collision risk. They point out that Starlink compounds can increase the transmission rate of American drones and invisible aircraft more than 100 times. In addition, SpaceX has signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop new technologies based on Starlink. Chinese scientists are talking about sensitive instruments capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons. Starlink satellites are also equipped with ion engines that allow them to quickly change orbits while preparing for enemy space targets, they report.
Moreover, the SpaceX constellation could also be used for other purposes. For example, in 2020, two engineers from the University of Texas Radio Navigation Laboratory in Austin presented a system based on the same satellites capable of achieving 10 times the accuracy of GPS positioning, with much less interference.
Given the number of Starlink satellites in orbit, the system is considered to be particularly reliable; even if a few of them fail, the system as a whole will not be damaged; therefore, Chinese scientists are working to develop new anti-satellite capabilities.
For example, they suggest launching satellites with military payloads among Starlink's flying fleet. The Chinese military also needs to improve its surveillance systems so that they can obtain high-precision images of these satellites so that experts can identify any unusual features they add. The country also needs to be able to intercept signals from each Starlink satellite to detect any threats.
The direct approach was excluded because not only would it produce too much debris, but it would also be too expensive and not very "economically efficient." "," said researchers.
According to reports, China already has some anti-satellite technologies, including lasers and silencers. Space expert from Beijing, who did not participate in the study, emphasizes that the prevailing Chinese view is not an attack on the Starlink network, but a "constructive" countermeasure." He said in an interview with the South China Morning Post, "China has already launched a project similar to Starlink, called StarNet. In any event, the document sounds like an open call to attack Starlink, notes the expert.