China planning to block Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites?

China and the U.S. are still fighting a salient “war” that not many people talk about. This “war” now happens basically in the trade and technology sectors. China and the U.S. had serious trade issues which they are still trying to tackle. On the technology end, many Chinese company can participate in the U.S. 5G construction. In fact, the U.S. has been blacklisting multiple Chinese companies most notably Huawei and ZTE. In all of these, the U.S. pins its actions on protecting “national security”. It appears that China will now play the “national security” card. Unfortunately, Elon Musk’s Starlink is at the hub of it. According to recent reports, Chinese military researchers are calling for a “hard kill” weapon. They need these weapons to terminate Starlink satellite system if it threatens China’s national security.

Starlink satellites

According to the researchers, Starlink has a “huge potential for military applications”. Thus, they recommend countermeasures to surveil, or destroy the growing satellite megaconstellation. The original manuscript is in Chinese. However, you can get a translated copy of the paper published in the journal China’s Modern Defence Technology here.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is in charge of Starlink which is a broadband satellite internet network. It provides internet access to users irrespective of their location (anywhere globally). However, to use the Starlink network, the user will need access to a Starlink satellite dish. Back in 2019, the company launched its first satellites. Since then, it now has no less than 2300 satellites in low-Earth orbit worldwide. However, the company is planning to form a gigantic megaconstellation with no less than 42,000 satellites. China does not like this and will seek to stop it.

Starlink military power

Specifically, the researchers have concerns about the military capacity of this constellation. According to them, the U.S. will eventually track hypersonic missiles with this system. It will also boost U.S. military capacity and transmission speeds of U.S. drones and fighter jets. Furthermore, this megaconstelation could be a threat to Chinese satellites.

Last year, China wrote to the U.N complaining that Starlink satellites are an obstruction. China had to perform complex maneuvers to avoid “close encounters” with Starlink satellites last year.

Led by Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications said “A combination of soft and hard kill methods should be adopted to make some Starlink satellites lose their functions and destroy the constellation’s operating system,”. These are two different types of space weapons. Hard kill will be more direct, physically destroying the satellites with missiles. Soft kill is less direct and more subtle, involving the use of jamming and laser weapons.

China’s alternatives

Below are a couple of methods that China already has for disabling satellites

Leave a Comment