China is angry at Elon Musk after Starlink satellites almost hit its space station

midian182

Posts: 7,775   +79
Staff member
In brief: Elon Musk has divided opinion, with most people seeming to either love him or hate him. It seems the billionaire certainly isn’t China’s favorite person. The country has complained to the UN over claims that SpaceX Starlink satellites almost crashed into its space station twice in the past year.

According to a document submitted by China this month to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the country’s space station was forced to deploy prevention collision avoidance control measures in July and October to avoid colliding with Starlink satellites.

“China wishes to request the secretary general of the United Nations to circulate the above-mentioned information to all states parties to the Outer Space Treaty,” the report reads.

SpaceX has launched over 1,600 satellites into low-earth orbit to enable the Starlink service that beams down internet connectivity to remote areas. The company plans to have between 12,000 and 42,000 satellites in the coming years and has already received permission from the US Federal Communications Commission to launch up to 12,000.

Users of the Chinese microblogging site Weibo have reacted to news of the complaint with anger directed at Musk, SpaceX, and the US in general. The BBC notes that some have called the satellites "American space warfare weapons," adding that "Musk is a new 'weapon' created by the US government and military."

"The risks of Starlink are being gradually exposed, the whole human race will pay for their business activities," wrote another.

But China doesn’t have a spotless past when it comes to near misses in space. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told The Guardian that “It is also fair to say that the US space station has several times over the past ten years had to dodge pieces from the Chinese military anti-satellite test of 2007. It’s not like the Chinese had a clean record here. The biggest debris event ever was the Chinese anti-satellite test.”

SpaceX has yet to comment on the matter.

December has been an eventful month for Musk. Not only was he named Time’s person of the year, but the CEO also said he would pay over $11 billion in taxes this year, more than any American in history.

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Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 681   +1,081
Seems like a crazy anomaly. Those satellites are supposed to be orbiting at a specified altitude in LEO where they have dedicated airspace. The only times they’re supposed to change in altitude is between separation from the second stage at launch/when they reach their operational state (orbit raise), and during decommission when they deorbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere (they have a similar mass to a human). The Starlink satellites are actually all in Earth’s atmosphere (specifically the exobase) and rely on ionic thrusters to maintain elevation. So most likely there are modifications needed for launch plans to further avoid hitting obstacles at very low altitudes.
 
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Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,506   +2,736
Space junk was a serious problem 25 years ago, for this century it'll be a critical issue. As per usual very little planning to keep orbits tidy happened early on, and then it was already a mess. A major clean up will have to happen eventually. It took until this year to get some sort of functional clean up mission with ELSA-d. It works but it's a ways off being a widespread effort. They picked up a bottlecap on a beach and now there is just the rest of the ocean to do.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,084   +3,987
China is always angry at everyone else.

Except for weird 'Leftists' that maintain China is a communist project and deny the reality of it being just another capitalist nation now, with a bit tighter control and less subtle propaganda.

Which actually lines up with Musk pretty well too if you think about it: Everyone is angry at him all the time except for a few, weird 'Anarcho'-Capitalists and 'Libertarians' and other assorted tech bros that could pick the corn of of Elon's well, you know where I'm going with it.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,317   +5,508
Except for weird 'Leftists' that maintain China is a communist project and deny the reality of it being just another capitalist nation now, with a bit tighter control and less subtle propaganda.

Which actually lines up with Musk pretty well too if you think about it: Everyone is angry at him all the time except for a few, weird 'Anarcho'-Capitalists and 'Libertarians' and other assorted tech bros that could pick the corn of of Elon's well, you know where I'm going with it.
Ironic how every communist country always has capitalism behind it...almost like communism is a failed ideology created by a rich NEET who had no concept of the real working class, and communism itself only works so long as it has a capitalist market to feed off of. .
 

winjer

Posts: 402   +1,833
Except for weird 'Leftists' that maintain China is a communist project and deny the reality of it being just another capitalist nation now, with a bit tighter control and less subtle propaganda.

Which actually lines up with Musk pretty well too if you think about it: Everyone is angry at him all the time except for a few, weird 'Anarcho'-Capitalists and 'Libertarians' and other assorted tech bros that could pick the corn of of Elon's well, you know where I'm going with it.

It has become a strange amalgamation of both.
China still has a autocratic regime, like all communist countries before.
It still has a centralized planed economy. With the state controlling even the biggest companies. And when the CEOs of these companies do something the CCP does not approve, they disappear for a while to be re-educated. Or they never come back.
It has the special economic zones, that work like a capitalist country, nut the rest of the country still works mostly like a communist country.
China still has high levels of censorship and oppression.
 

fps4ever

Posts: 866   +1,284
Ironic how every communist country always has capitalism behind it...almost like communism is a failed ideology created by a rich NEET who had no concept of the real working class, and communism itself only works so long as it has a capitalist market to feed off of. .

"Human rights and genocide issues" has entered the chat....
 

seeprime

Posts: 673   +885
I see the article has zero orbital information that might support, or refute, the Chinese claim. The Tiangong space station orbits earth at a varying level of from 210 to 280 miles above earth. Starlink satellites currently orbit at 340 miles. So, either China is making this up to stir up internal controversy, or Starlink is deploying new satellites at a lower level than they originally did. More data is needed. However, I suspect China is pulling a stunt to distract from some of their other activities. After all, these "events" happened months ago. Normally, close calls in space are reported practically in real time.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,079   +5,612
I see the article has zero orbital information that might support, or refute, the Chinese claim. The Tiangong space station orbits earth at a varying level of from 210 to 280 miles above earth. Starlink satellites currently orbit at 340 miles. So, either China is making this up to stir up internal controversy, or Starlink is deploying new satellites at a lower level than they originally did. More data is needed. However, I suspect China is pulling a stunt to distract from some of their other activities. After all, these "events" happened months ago. Normally, close calls in space are reported practically in real time.

Nice, someone else here is actually paying attention.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,527   +7,370
This is reminiscent of last month's(?) Russian destruction of one of their own satellites creating "space junk". The point of which, was Putin demonstrating that he could destroy anybody else's satellite if he had chosen to do so. You know, like a US spy satellite.

It seems too many people missed the point on that one.
 

ZedRM

Posts: 935   +651
To whom it may concern in China;

Your definition of "almost" needs improvement and you need to quit whining. The Starlink constellation is at least 60km from the orbit of your space station. That's hardly a risk unless you choose to make it one. So don't.

If you want a greater distance, move your space station.

Thank You
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,527   +7,370
China is always angry at everyone else.
Well, they did have to put up with the Japanese for quite awhile, which was probably a bit annoying. In fact, we had to drop a couple of A-bombs on the Japanese to make them stop their grandiose world domination scheme.

But are the Chinese grateful? I don't think so, but feel free to leave your comments below.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,663   +7,564
If the Chinese would put more gas in that thing they might get to a higher altitude or if they weren't such pricks they could get a ride on the ISS .....
 

Gameredic

Posts: 22   +9
Space junk was a serious problem 25 years ago, for this century it'll be a critical issue. As per usual very little planning to keep orbits tidy happened early on, and then it was already a mess. A major clean up will have to happen eventually. It took until this year to get some sort of functional clean up mission with ELSA-d. It works but it's a ways off being a widespread effort. They picked up a bottlecap on a beach and now there is just the rest of the ocean to do.
I don't think that's going to be possible. Some nerds already warned that we could unintentionally cause a space debris wall preventing mankind from further space exploration.
 

Raunchy

Posts: 46   +12
These jagoffs should be the last ones complaining about space junk, after they blew up one of their own satellites years ago and created a shìtstorm... to be imitated more recently and despicably by the Russians.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,527   +7,370
to be imitated more recently and despicably by the Russians.
IMO, everybody seems to have missed the subtext with the Russian satellite destruction.

They were just demonstrating how they could blow up any spy satellite they chose, using their obsolete unit as an example
 

ZedRM

Posts: 935   +651
IMO, everybody seems to have missed the subtext with the Russian satellite destruction.

They were just demonstrating how they could blow up any spy satellite they chose, using their obsolete unit as an example
This is obvious. If anyone missed this point, they need to stay out of strategic decision making.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,527   +7,370
This is obvious. If anyone missed this point, they need to stay out of strategic decision making.
I posted to the thread on that topic. It seemed to me that the other participants were more concerned with the "space junk", as opposed to the Russian's ulterior motives.

This possibility was brought more to light by revelations how Russia could use "false flag operations", as a pretext to invade Ukraine

While it's hard to tell who's "telling the truth", in "spy versus spy" revelations, what the FBI reported, was entirely plausible.