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China furious after dangerous near-misses with Elon Musk’s satellites

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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • China accused the United States for being irresponsible after its space station had to take preventative action to not hit two SpaceX satellites.
  • The two small satellites involved in the incident were a part of Elon Musk’s Starlink, a division within SpaceX that aims to provide internet service.
  • The near misses occurred in July and October of this year.

China has reportedly accused the United States of being irresponsible and neglecting international treaty obligations after Beijing said it had to take evasive measures to avoid hitting two SpaceX satellites.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday urged the U.S. to “act responsibly” after the two close calls, according to The Guardian.

China’s space station was forced to take “preventative collision avoidance control” during two encounters with SpaceX’s Starlink satellites in July and October, according to a note given to the UN Committee to the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space earlier this month, Al Jazeera reported.

The small Starlink satellites that were a part of the close encounters were part of Musk’s effort to provide internet access across the globe. Starlink, a division within Musk’s SpaceX, so far has launched roughly 1,600 satellites and has permission from the United States to launch up to 12,000 under its program, according to The Guardian.


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“The manoeuvre strategy was unknown and orbital errors were hard to assess,” Beijing said of the satellite involved in the October incident, The Guardian reported.

In addition, the October note claimed the incidents “constituted dangers to the life or health of astronauts on board the China space station” and asked the U.N. secretary general “to circulate the above mentioned information to all states parties to the outer space treaty,” the outlet reported.

The note reportedly added that state parties to the space treaty “bear international responsibility” for the actions of both governmental and nongovernmental bodies in space. 


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