China could launch 13,000 satellites to "suppress" and spy on Starlink
The satellites could carry "anti-Starlink payloads"By Rob Thubron 18 comments
What just happened? China has expressed its distaste for Space X's Starlink satellite service on several previous occasions. According to new reports, the country plans to launch a rival service to provide global internet, "suppress" Elon Musk's network, and carry out anti-Starlink missions.
The South China Morning Post reports that researchers claim China is planning to build a massive satellite network, codenamed GW, in near-Earth orbit. According to a team led by associate professor Xu Can with the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Space Engineering University in Beijing, the plan for GW involves the placement of 12,992 satellites, owned by the newly established China Satellite Network Group Co. Xu and his team revealed the details in a paper about anti-Starlink measures published in the Chinese journal Command Control and Simulation.
There are currently just over 3,000 Starlink satellites in low-earth orbit. SpaceX plans to have more than 12,000 by 2027 and eventually reach 40,000. There's no mention of when China's satellites would be launched, though Xu and his team wrote that GW would likely be deployed "before the completion of Starlink," thereby ensuring "that our country has a place in low orbit and prevent the Starlink constellation from excessively pre-empting low-orbit resources."
The researchers say the satellites could be placed in orbits that Starlink has not yet reached, explaining that they would "gain opportunities and advantages at other orbital altitudes, and even suppress Starlink."
What's especially concerning is the mention of the Chinese satellites carrying anti-Starlink payloads for missions such as "close-range, long-term surveillance of Starlink satellites."
Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher with the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, last year wrote that China should develop hard and soft kill methods for destroying Starlink satellites, which he suggested could have military applications that include allowing drones and stealth fighter jets to increase their data transmission speeds by more than 100 times. Ren's paper also claimed the satellites could offer online connectivity to troops in the field, take out high-value targets in space using their ion thrusters, and carry military payloads.
The most recent paper also warns of Starlink's potential military applications. "The Starlink satellites may use their orbital maneuverability to actively hit and destroy nearby targets in space," it reads.
Researchers add that China plans to use new technology in radars that can better track and identify Starlink satellites. It also suggests the Chinese government cooperate with other nations to form an anti-Starlink coalition and demand that SpaceX publishes the precise orbiting data of Starlink satellites.
A year of 🇺🇦 resistance & companies have to decide:— Ми...айло По'оляк (@Podolyak_M) February 9, 2023
-Either they are on the side of 🇺🇦 & the right to freedom, and don't seek ways to do harm.
-Or they are on RF's side & its "right" to kill & seize territories.#SpaceX (Starlink) & Mrs. #Shotwell should choose a specific option
Although China is worried about Starlink being weaponized, the company recently limited Ukraine's ability to use its satellites for offensive military purposes. The move followed reports that the country's military had been using Starlink to control drones. Starlink said the service could be used for military communications, but it was never intended for offensive purposes.