Elon Musk Slammed By China After Two Separate Incidents With SpaceX Satellites

Elon Musk China Starlink

The richest man in the world is on the wrong foot with China as the battle for orbital real estate intensifies.

China said its space station implemented collision avoidance and prevention control measures in July and October to avoid collision with Starlink satellites in a recent report presented by Beijing to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space earlier this month .

Billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk found himself in hot water with China after his satellites strayed a little too close to the Earth’s orbiting superpower space station.

State media berated the richest man in the world over two separate incidents in July and October in which SpaceX satellites drifted dangerously close to the Chinese space station.

In a note filed with the United Nations space agency in December, critics claimed the SpaceX spacecraft had the potential to endanger “the life or health of astronauts” on board.

Chinese representatives said, for safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control.

The small satellites involved in the alleged incidents were among the nearly 2,000 launched by SpaceX’s Internet services division Starlink. The high-tech service provides the Internet to customers in remote areas who have limited access to traditional Internet service providers.

State media outlet The South China Morning Post reported Chinese officials asked the UN to remind nations that under an international agreement called the Outer Space Treaty, US-launched satellites “bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that the move is intended to test China’s capacity in space to check whether China can accurately grasp the satellites’ actions,” aerospace science expert Huang Zhicheng told the outlet.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics said, it was “highly unusual” for a country to lodge a complaint through an “informational bulletin”

Collisions are not a rare occurrence in space, but such incidents have increased in recent years due to the number and speed at which satellites are being launched, according to McDowell. “Starlink is a big part of that,” he said.

SpaceX has launched more than 1,600 satellites into space on a network dubbed Starlink and has received permission from the US Federal Communications Commission to launch up to 12,000 satellites into space.

Matthew Giannelis

Secondary editor and executive officer at Tech Business News. Contracting as an IT support engineer for 20 years Matthew has a passion for sharing his knowledge of the technology industry. He's also an advocate for global cyber security matters.

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