China Slams SpaceX For Satellite Near Miss – Report

A row is brewing in outer space, after China alleged that its space station was forced to take evasive action so as to avoid collision with satellites from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

According to the Reuters report, China in a document published on the website of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs earlier this month, alleged that satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of SpaceX, had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station on 1 July and 21 October.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been launching thousands of satellites over the past two years into orbit for its satellite broadband service. There are now said to be more than 1,900 Starlink satellites in orbit, although the intention is to eventually build a fleet of 42,000 constellation of satellites.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites into orbit. SpaceX

Collision risk?

But China is unhappy at the growing number of Starlink satellites, and has now filed an official complaint.

“For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control,” China was quoted by Reuters as saying in a document published on the website of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

It should be noted that the Chinese complaints have not been independently verified.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

In a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblogging platform on Monday, one user said Starlink’s satellites were “just a pile of space junk”, while another described them as “American space warfare weapons.”

“The risks of Starlink are being gradually exposed, the whole human race will pay for their business activities,” a user posting under the name Chen Haiying said on Weibo.

Space debris

There is a well documented and growing problem of space debris and clutter, as there are reportedly nearly 30,000 satellites and other debris believed to be orbiting the planet.

Governments are being urged to share location data to reduce the risk of catastrophic space collisions.

Last month Russia was heavily criticised for blowing up a satellite in orbit, creating creating a dangerous debris cloud which can be lethal to astronauts when on a space walk.

It took the action because the satellites could not be moved to burn up in the atmosphere.

The debris cloud can also be dangerous to space stations and other satellites.

NASA reportedly was forced to abruptly call off a spacewalk at the end of November, citing risks posed by space debris.

Musk tweeted in response that some Starlink satellite orbits had been adjusted to reduce the possibility of collisions.

China began constructing its space station in April with the launch of Tianhe. The station is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 after four crewed missions.

In April 2020 SpaceX responded to growing complaints about the ‘brightness’ from the firm’s satellite broadband constellation.

Elon Musk at the time said the company was “fixing” the brightness of his company’s satellites, which he blamed on the angle of the solar panels of each satellite.

It came after complaints from stargazers that their view of the stars was being obscured.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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