By Pan Yuxiang, Ye Xingguo
The news that America’s Starlink satellites had two close encounters with the Chinese space station, and the Chinese side implemented preventive collision avoidance control has caught extensive attention recently.
As a space program initiated by the American company SpaceX, the Starlink was originally designed to be a constellation comprising about 12,000 satellites distributed on three different orbits. Later the company applied to add another 30,000 satellites to increase the total number to 42,000, which is five times the number of all global satellites currently in orbit. The Starlink program, expected to be completed in 2027, will very likely change the future of Internet access.
But is it really intended to provide the world with space-based Internet services, or to help the US military weave a space network shrouding the whole world?
An authoritative organization revealed that the US military forked out a lot of money for Starlink as early as 2019 and has already installed its satellite communication system on warplanes and other combat platforms to verify the connectivity. The Pentagon’s efforts to tap Starlink’s potential for military purposes may very well go beyond that.
Experts said the Starlink satellites will play an ever bigger role in America’s military operations.
It can provide offensive & defensive means of space combat. Of an enormous amount and capable of in-orbit maneuvering, the Starlink is strong in space confrontation, not only able to protect its own high-value satellites, but also launch a suicidal attack on the key satellites of the enemy side.
It has the potential for anti-missile purposes. The tens of thousands of Starlink satellites constitute layers of a giant network in the space, which, combined with its in-orbit maneuverability, can work with the land-based missile defense system to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles flying in that orbit, thus significantly enhancing the US forces’ capability of countering missiles and anti-saturation attacks. Adjacent satellites in this program may even collide with each other for self-destruction if necessary, generating myriads of debris that would block certain orbits and consequently intercept the passing ballistic missiles.
It may trigger chain collisions and threaten security on low-earth orbits. The Starlink program and other Internet constellation plans in the US will increase the number of low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites by tens of times. Any collision may trigger chain effects that would cause “traffic congestion” and render all LEOs useless.
The Starlink with a civil cloak causes high alert.
To rip open this US-woven “space network”, Russia, the strategic rival of the US in the space domain, claimed that it has developed almost all types of new space combat weapons since it launched the space capability modernization campaign in 2010. These weapons include direct-ascent kinetic energy anti-LEO-satellite (DA-KE-ASAT) weapons, co-orbital kinetic energy anti-satellite (KE-ASAT) weapons, and aircraft-borne laser platforms. They can jam and deceive the satellite uplink and user devices, attack cyberspace, and counter the space combat technology of satellites on different orbits – enough to threaten America’s space systems.
Space is a common resource shared by all humanity and exploring and using it concerns humanity’s common interests. No country shall have its full swing, much less is the orbital space America’s exclusive privilege.