The Chinese military must develop the capability to destroy or disable SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system if they threaten national security write Chinese military researchers in a paper published last month, South China Morning Post reports.
Due to the decentralized nature of the Starlink system, the paper calls for the Chinese military to develop new anti-satellite capabilities including an unprecedented surveillance system to track and monitor every Starlink satellite.
Led by a researcher with the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications under the PLA’s Strategic Support Force, Ren Yuanzhen, the study was co-authored by several senior scientists of China’s defense industry.
Signing a contract with the US Defense Department to develop new technology based on the Starlink platform, SpaceX is contracted to develop sensitive technology designed to detect and track hypersonic weapons traveling at five times the speed of sound and beyond.
Ren estimated that US military drones and stealth fighter jets could raise their existing data transmission speed by more than 100 times with a Starlink connection.
With more than 2,300 satellites currently in operation, the Starlink system is typically thought to be indestructible as the system can remain in operation with the loss of some satellites.
The chief researcher stated that China does have the ability to destroy space objects with a missile, however this method of attack would prove to be too risky and expensive for the unprecedented and expansive Starlink system.
“The Starlink constellation constitutes a decentralised system. The confrontation is not about individual satellites, but the whole system. This requires some low-cost, high-efficiency measures,” said the researchers in the report.
SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk has gained popularity in China but faced harsh criticism after two Starlink satellites maneuvered ‘dangerously close’ to the Chinese space station last year.
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Ren’s team additionally stated that it is possible for military payloads to be released along with Starlink commercial units into space, therefore the team suggested that the Chinese military upgrade existing surveillance systems to monitor Starlink satellites.
Musk has additionally recently provided over 12000 Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine free of charge during the nation’s ongoing conflict with Russia, Bloomberg reports.