Chinese researchers unveil strategy to destroy Elon Musk’s Starlink

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Spaceport 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday, April 21, 2022, carried a batch of 53 Starlink internet satellites.

SpaceX launched 53 additional Starlink satellites into orbit in April.
photo: John Raou (Associated Press)

As SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are expected to pose a threat, military researcher want theirs in china The country is ready to disable, or completely destroy, the huge internet constellation. It’s an ominous possibility, but it’s easier said than done.

in a Research Papers Published in Chinese peer-reviewed journals Modern Defense Science and Technology and report In an article in the state-run South China Morning Post last Wednesday, lead author Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, argued that the Chinese military should find ways to counter any threat posed by Starlink.The paper was freely available as early as yesterday, but as of today it appears to be Take it down.However, a translated version of the article can be accessed here.

“A combination of software and hardware should be adopted to disable some Starlink satellites and disrupt the constellation’s operating system,” the paper said, citing China’s “hidden dangers and challenges.” The researchers behind the recent paper also warned that Starlink would continue to “offensive” and use the satellite’s ion thrusters to knock Chinese spacecraft or satellites out of orbit.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is building Starlink satellite constellation in low earth orbit, It is designed to provide highSpeed ​​up the internet to almost anywhere in the world.The plan is emission put more than 42,000 satellites into orbit using the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, So far, about 2,300 functioning Starlink satellites have been put into orbit.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo: “If you’re part of any nation’s military whose job is to think about war in space, you would think of Starlink as a different problem. ”

The main issues with the Starlink satellites is that there’s just too many of them, and so you would have to dispatch a tremendous number of anti-satellite missiles to destroy the entire constellation. Knocking out one or two, or even several dozen, won’t disable the entire system. What’s more, SpaceX would have very little difficulty replacing a few lost units. And as McDowell said, “replacing a Starlink satellite is cheaper than replacing an anti-satellite missile.”

China became extra wary of the constellation after two Starlink satellites nearly crashed In 2021, it entered China’s Tianhe Space Station twice. On both occasions the space station had to give way with Chinese astronauts on board.

The authors of the recent paper worry that SpaceX will soon be overwhelmed Low Earth Orbit, Private Companies May Help U.S. Military Dominate this precious space.The Chinese army also has express concern Following Musk’s use of Starlink to support Ukraine during the Russian invasion. In March, Starlink began providing internet connectivity to the Ukrainian population after Russian troops destroyed cell towers.

Earlier this month, Published on the website of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China opinion piece Warning the scope of Starlink. “In addition to supporting communications, as experts estimate, Starlink can also interact with drones [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] And, the use of big data and facial recognition technology may have played a role in Ukraine’s military operations against Russia,” according to an article published in China Military Online.

During war, one strategy is to interrupt the enemy’s lines of communication, but this has become a daunting task Super constellation era. Furthermore, as McDowell explained, Starlink provides an innate advantage to those who choose to use it. “I don’t think it’s seen as a threat, it’s seen more as an asset,” he told me.

After supporting Ukraine, Musk bluntly stated that Starlink may become a target. “If you’re trying to destroy Starlink, it’s not easy because there are 2,000 satellites. That means a lot of anti-satellite missiles,” Musk said in a post interview March with Business Insider. “I hope we don’t have to test this, but I think we’re launching satellites faster than they can launch anti-satellite missiles.”

The real threat, however, is to turn low-Earth orbit into some kind of space theater, or to overcrowd our planet’s surroundings with satellites.The U.S. military has its own Plans to build a constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit. Known as the blackjack project, it will consist of 300 to 500 satellites are used to support military operations.At the same time, China is developing its own plan For satellite internet mega constellations.

“I think this Chinese military news is a distraction from the real conversation we need to have about how are we going to coordinate all of this?” McDowell said.

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