A group of Chinese military scientists published research advocating for anti-satellite capabilities that might be used to disrupt Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites if required. According to the South China Morning Post, the study was headed by Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher from the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, and co-authored by scientists from China’s defence industry.
According to the report, ‘a combination of gentle and hard kill approaches’ might be used to deactivate some Starlink satellites. As of the most recent count, Starlink is a satellite constellation system managed by Musk’s SpaceX firm that has 2,400 satellite relays in low-Earth orbit capable of sending super-fast internet data everywhere in the world.
It has been lauded for providing fast internet to impoverished nations and isolated corners of the world, but Beijing is concerned about its possible military implications. The study was headed by Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher with the PLA’s Strategic Support Force’s Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications. Among the co-authors were some well-known scientists from China’s defense industry.
Musk’s SpaceX has agreed to use the Starlink platform for military purposes, including the development of sensitive instruments capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons traveling at five times the speed of sound in the Earth’s atmosphere, a technology that Beijing is said to be working on.
Ren’s team believes that the thousands of Starlink satellites scattered across the sky – with documents filed indicating that SpaceX plans to introduce up to 30,000 in the next decade – are also outfitted with ion thrusters, allowing them to transform orbits quickly and convert into low-earth battering rams against high-value targets in space.