The Chinese military is planning to develop a weapon that can destroy Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites if it threatens their “national security”, media reports said.
Starlink is a satellite constellation system operated by Musk’s SpaceX and provides broadband internet services to commercial and military users around the globe. With more than 2,300 satellites in orbit, it is generally believed to be indestructible because the system can maintain proper functioning after losing some satellites.
A paper published in the domestic peer-reviewed journal Modern Defence Technology, recommended China develop anti-satellite capabilities, including the ability to track, monitor and disable each Starlink satellite, the South China Morning Post reported.
“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,” wrote Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher with the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications under the People’s Liberation Army unit that caters to space, cyber, and electronic warfare force, in the paper.
The study, however, could not be confirmed as the official stance of the Chinese military or government, the report said.
SpaceX, recently, signed a contract with the US Defense Department to develop new technology based on the Starlink platform, including sensitive instruments able to detect and track hypersonic weapons.
The contract, Ren estimated, could increase US military drones and stealth fighter jets’ data transmission speed by more than 100 times. Thus, he suggested, that the Chinese military upgrade its existing space surveillance systems to obtain super-sharp images of these small satellites for experts to identify unusual features, the report said.
“The Starlink constellation constitutes a decentralised system. The confrontation is not about individual satellites, but the whole system. This requires some low-cost, high-efficiency measures,” said the researchers.
Meanwhile, on similar lines to Starlink, China also launched a project known as Xing Wang – StarNet. It aims to provide internet access on a global scale.
According to Chinese space authorities, the StarNet system will have only a few hundred satellites, but will achieve high performance by connecting with other Chinese satellites to form a high-speed, powerful and resilient information infrastructure with cutting-edge technology such as laser communication and AI, the report said.