Technology billionaire SpaceX satellites are catching on in the country after Beijing complained that two satellites launched by the American aerospace manufacturer endangered Chinese astronauts.
The two encounters “posed a danger to the life or health of astronauts aboard China’s space station,” according to the report, which said the incidents occurred in July and October.
China filed its complaint with the UN earlier this month. But the episodes did not get widespread attention in the country until this week.
Asked about the incident on Tuesday, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry called on the United States to “take immediate action to prevent such incidents from happening again.”
It is a typical double standard for the United States to proclaim the concept of “responsible conduct in outer space” while ignoring its obligations under international treaties on outer space and poses a serious threat to life and security. of astronauts, “Zhao Lijian told reporters. .
SpaceX did not respond to a request from CNN Business to comment on the document that China submitted to the UN, or to questions about whether the company was able to contact the Chinese authorities during the incidents.
The UN Office of Space Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business. In its report, China called on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to remind countries of the organization’s treaty governing space activity.
The U.S. military’s Vandenberg space force base, which monitors space traffic and attempts to track possible collisions, did not respond to a request for comment on the UNOOSA report.
A space traffic problem
SpaceX’s Starlink constellation already includes about 2,000 satellites and promises to far exceed that number.
Almost accidents between objects in space occur all the time. And the apparent upcoming calls documented in China’s report to the UN may be symptoms of a bigger problem affecting space nations: there is no perfect international solution for tracking and coordinating objects in space.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, noted that the International Space Station has had to maneuver to move away from the debris created by China’s 2007 ASAT test on several occasions in recent years.
In other words, all parties involved share some of the blame for the overcrowding of Earth’s orbit.
“This is another symptom that we are in a new era: a new space age that is much busier and much more tense,” McDowell told CNN Business.
It is unclear whether the Starlink satellites mentioned in the UN report attempted to move away from China’s space station on their own. During the October meeting, according to China, “the satellite’s maneuvering strategy was unknown and orbital errors were difficult to assess,” caused the space station to evade the satellite. “avoid a possible collision”.
McDowell told CNN Business that based on its data, the Starlink satellite approaching the China space station in July made a slight adjustment to its path that could indicate that the system autonomous worked.
But he added that these systems are not very effective if there is no more coordination.
“If I’m in China, even though I know SpaceX has a standalone system, I don’t know that this time it will work,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s on.”
Musk’s reputation in China
The controversy could damage Musk’s reputation in China.
Musk spent years winning over Chinese authorities and citizens alike while his electric car maker Tesla made raids where other foreign companies could not.
– CNN’s Beijing office contributed to this report.
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