China must develop capabilities to disable and maybe even destroy Starlink internet satellites, the country’s military researchers said in a paper published by the Chinese journal Modern Defense Technology. The authors highlighted the possibility of Starlink being used for military purposes that could aid other countries and threaten China’s national security. According to South China Morning Post, the scientists are calling for the development of anti-satellite capabilities, including both hard and soft kill methods. The former is used to physically destroy satellites, such as the use of missiles, while a soft kill method targets a satellite’s software and operating system.
In addition, the researchers are suggesting the development of a surveillance system with the ability to track each and every Starlink satellite. That would address one of their concerns, which is the possibility of launching military payloads along with a bunch of satellites for the constellation. David Cowhig’s Translation Blog posted an English version of the paper, along with another article from the state-sponsored website China Military Online that warned about the dangers of the satellite internet service.
“While Starlink claims to be a civilian program that provides high-speed internet services, it has a strong military background,” it said. Its launch sites are built within military bases, it continued, and SpaceX previously received funds from the US Air Force to study how Starlink satellites can connect to military aircraft under encryption. The Chinese scientists warned Starlink could boost the communication speeds of fighter jets and drones by over 100 times.
The author warned:
“When completed, Starlink satellites can be mounted with reconnaissance, navigation and meteorological devices to further enhance the US military’s combat capability in areas such as reconnaissance remote sensing, communications relay, navigation and positioning, attack and collision, and space sheltering.”
Between hard and soft kill, the researchers favor the latter, since physically destroying satellites would produce space debris that could interfere with China’s activities. The country previously filed a complaint with the United Nations about the Tiangong space station’s near-collision with Starlink satellites. Apparently, the station had to perform evasive maneuvers twice in 2021 to minimize the chances of collision. Destroying a few satellites also wouldn’t completely take out the Starlink constellation, seeing as SpaceX has already launched over 2,500 satellites at this point in time.
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