I laughed at Elon Musk’s response to China and his analogy with cars on earth (“Musk rejects allegations that his satellites are pushing opponents into space”, ReportDecember 30).
Cars do not race every hour at high speeds around the entire circumference of the earth. They are contained in roads and agreed road rules. They drive at low speeds and can easily take avoidance actions. A satellite must maintain a high speed to counteract the gravity of the earth. For example, the space station travels at more than 17,000 miles per hour.
Such a satellite sweeps a space of space every hour in a way that cars just do not. Crossing these bands is the space equivalent of surface splinters and pheasants, unpredictable pieces of space debris, plus whatever space rock wanders across our path. If they hit the satellite, it will disintegrate due to the velocities – leading to more space debris moving in unpredictable orbits.
We signed up for Musk’s Starlink due to the terribly slow rollout of broadband speeds to rural areas in the UK. Despite this, I must point out that the regulation of near-Earth space has long since expired.
The Chinese have a point.
Tarland, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom