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Chinese slam Elon Musk over near miss in space

Elon Musk in Shanghai in January 2020. Credit: Aly Song / Reuters

Edinburgh / Beijing, 28 December 2021. – Satellites from SpaceX’s Starlink Internet Services had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station in July and October, according to a document submitted by China to the UN’s space agency and reported by international media. 

The China Space Station had to take “preventive collision avoidance control” measures to avoid colliding with the satellites. Although the complaints have not been independently verified, Chinese social media, Weibo users have attacked Elon Musk and Starlink. A user called the satellites “American space warfare weapons” while others demanded Musk to leave the country.

China said the satellites were moving dangerously but they did not say how close they came to collide with Tiangong. In November, NASA was forced to cancel a spacewalk due to risks posed by space objects. Musk then responded by having the orbits of some Starlink satellites adjusted.

Starlink already has about 1,900 satellites in orbit, which number will increase to as many as 12,000 in the future. European industry experts say that these spacecraft only add to the existing problem of space debris.

Musk also faces criticism for Tesla in China after car owners expressing issues with the brakes and poor customer service. The cars’ cameras got Chinese military worried as well, saying they might pose a security risk. Musk said the devices could not be used for spying. 

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