Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Tracking China’s Hypersonic Missiles – After Moscow, Beijing Threatens To Neutralize America’s ‘Greatest Wartime Asset’

Chinese military researchers are reportedly working on methods to disrupt or eliminate SpaceX’s Starlink satellites if they threaten national security.

China must acquire the capability to track, monitor, and, if required, kill all Starlink satellites in orbit around the Earth, reported SCMP, citing a study published last month.  

The study states: “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.”

SpaceX operates the Starlink satellite constellation system. It currently employs over 2,400 low-earth orbit satellites capable of providing high-speed internet anywhere globally.

The system has been credited with providing the internet to some of the world’s most remote areas. Elon Musk, the CEO, intends to deploy as many as 30,000 satellites over the next decade.

The US Department of Defense has also inked a deal with SpaceX to use the Starlink platform for military purposes. This agreement includes creating sensors for tracking hypersonic missiles, which China already has in its arsenal.

Hypersonic
File Image: Hypersonic Weapon

As a result, China is concerned about the security threats that SpaceX could pose to its national security, as EurAsian Times had earlier reported.

Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher with the PLA’s Strategic Support Force’s Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, led the study. Several renowned scientists from China’s defense industry were among the co-authors. 

The report also proposes additional monitoring capabilities that would enable China to monitor data sent between Starlink satellites, potentially enhancing Beijing’s intelligence collecting capabilities. 

SpaceX
SpaceX

However, dismantling the SpaceX satellite system would be difficult for China, as the system can function even if some satellites are lost. Ren believes that China must construct super-sharp space surveillance satellites to monitor the Starlink system. Additionally, the country must detect and analyze data being relayed in order to anticipate threats.

He also suggests China should improve its satellite-killing capabilities and make it more cost-effective to eliminate different targets such as Starlink, despite the dangers of space debris interfering with other functions.

“The Starlink constellation constitutes a decentralized system. The confrontation is not about individual satellites but the whole system. “This requires some low-cost, high-efficiency measures,” the researchers stated, without explaining the attack methods. 

Can Russia & China Destroy Starlink?

SpaceX has recently come under the radar of China and Russia. According to state-controlled Chinese media, the growth of Starlink’s space footprint should put the “international community” on “high alert.” 

On the other hand, the head of Russia’s space agency Dmitry Rogozin threatened Elon Musk for providing internet access to Ukraine after Moscow had blocked it. 

“For this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult – no matter how much you’ll play the fool,” he wrote. Musk then quipped about being assassinated by Russian soldiers.

Both Russia and China have advanced anti-satellite missiles, which are frequently mentioned as a possible danger to the US and its allies.  

China performed its first anti-satellite test in 2007 when it shot down an obsolete meteorological satellite. Since then, the country has focused on building technology to capture or destroy satellites to avoid creating space junk.

Besides developing robotic arms and space nets, China has invented numerous ground-based weapons intended to impinge a satellite. 

China is improving its space technologies across the spectrum, including satellites, launch vehicles, sensors, and lunar systems, all with the purpose of helping Beijing achieve its long-term goal of becoming a major space power.

Dong Neng-ASAT
Dong Neng-ASAT

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, thinks that rivals such as Russia and China will find it difficult to destroy his company’s Starlink satellites. In an interview, Musk referenced a previous anti-satellite test conducted by Russia. 

This test utilized Russia’s anti-ballistic missile interceptor, the PL-19 Nudol system, to demonstrate its direct ascent anti-satellite (DA-AST) and annihilated an outdated satellite of its own. 

Musk is convinced that such a system will not be utilized against its satellites. Starlink presently maintains over 2,000 satellites, and bringing down the entire constellation would require 2,000 anti-satellite weapons.

Furthermore, Musk believes SpaceX can launch more satellites into space than opponents can destroy in a given time frame. 

 

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