China sees Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites as a threat to their national security. So much so that Beijing has asked for plans from its military officials on how to shoot them down!
According to reports, China’s top military researchers are concerned about how easily the commercial satellites, which provide internet service, could be weaponized. The researchers drew attention to Starlink’s “huge potential for military applications” and the need for China to develop countermeasures to surveil, disable or even destroy the growing satellite megaconstellation.
Their paper was published in the journal China’s Modern Defense Technology.
Starlink is a broadband satellite internet network developed by Musk’s SpaceX company that aims to beam internet access to customers anywhere in the world via an earthbound Starlink satellite dish to connect to the satellites. Since the first Starlink satellites were launched in 2019, SpaceX has put more than 2,300 of them into low-Earth orbit, and the company plans to send up to 42,000 satellites into space to form a gigantic “megaconstellation.”
The researchers also wrote, “While Starlink claims to be a civilian program that provides high-speed Internet services, it has a strong military background as well evidenced by the fact that some of the launch sites are built within the Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the encrypted interconnection between the satellites and Air Force fighters has been included into their technical verification tests.”
The paper went on to say, as a matter of fact, Starlink has cooperated with the American military many times.
“In 2019, SpaceX received funds from the US Air Force to test how well Starlink satellites can connect with military aircraft under encryption.
“In March 2021, it announced its plan to work with the US Air Force to further test the Starlink internet.”
The researchers argued that when the mega constellation is completed, Starlink satellites can then easily be equipped with reconnaissance, navigation, and meteorological devices.
As far as how to take them down, China already has multiple methods for disabling satellites. In this case, the military researchers recommended, “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….”
Hard and soft kill are the two categories of space weapons, with hard kill being weapons that physically strike their targets — like missiles — and soft kill, including jamming and laser weapons.
There has been no official response from Musk yet, but in the past, when Starlink had been threatened by Russia or China, he had said, “let them try,” implying that he had countermeasures in place that would make taking down the megaconstellation quite difficult.