Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite project launched by SpaceX recently hit the news headlines when it almost crashed against the Chinese marvel space station Tiangong, which is currently in assembly and pre-testing phase. The Starlink satellite passed really close by, forcing the Chinese station team to execute evasive maneuvers. This event angered the Chinese community, and Elon Musk’s ignorance regarding the issue has further helped to fan the flames.
China’s complaints regarding the issue
China complained to the UN about the two near misses between its Tiangong space station and satellites from Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Beijing’s objection to the United Nations after two near-misses has heightened fears about low-earth orbit overpopulation. Experts believe governments need to build better channels to address possible hazards as SpaceX and other private companies construct massive constellations in space. The issue is further escalated by the fact that Elon Musk and SpaceX have not yet officially made a comment regarding the issue, and have not acknowledged the incident, even after a month. (More on the Accusations on SpaceX by China here)
Why is Elon Musk ignoring China’s last warning?
It is unclear as to why there has been no official recognition or confirmation from the side of SpaceX or Elon Musk regarding the matter at hand, and this problem has become even more serious due to this ignorance. Both SpaceX and the Chinese space program have been leaders globally in most satellite launches per year. Rumors even say that China plans to launch its own system of Starlink-tier satellite systems that will provide continent-wide internet services and compete with Elon Musk’s system. This proposed system is being dubbed “StarNet”.
Musk has long been revered in China, with some of the country’s most powerful business leaders hailing him as a visionary and proudly displaying their Tesla vehicles. Despite the normal need that foreign carmakers cooperate with a Chinese partner, Tesla gained unusual regulatory authority to run its Shanghai facility alone. However, the response against SpaceX indicates that Musk will have hurdles in the future, as business is increasingly regarded through the prism of national security in Beijing and Washington.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “The U.S. claims to be a strong advocate for the concept of ‘responsible behavior in outer space,’ but it disregarded its treaty and posed a grave threat to the safety of astronauts,”
Conclusion: The Bigger Picture
Events like these are becoming prime example of how the world is slowly transitioning into a pseudo cold-war state in regards to space exploration and dominance, and the main players are definitely emerging up to be US and China. The no. of advancements that China has made in the recent times cannot be compared to any other country, as even USA’s NASA and SpaceX are also slacking in progress, compared to the CNSA. China definitely seems to have big plans for the future, and they are now set in a space race, with the goal of setting up on Mars. (More on China’s future space plans here)