China complained to the United Nations (UN) that its space station was forced to take evasive measures twice to avoid crashing with the numerous small SpaceX satellites that Elon Musk has launched.
As per the report sent to the UN space agency in December, there were two separate incidents in July and October. SpaceX satellites had drifted extremely close to the Chinese space station, potentially putting the lives and health of astronauts on board, in danger. China outlined “For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control”.
It has also asked the UN to remind nations, including the United States, of the Outer Space Treaty. As per this agreement, countries “bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space … whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities”.
The small satellites that have caused these incidents are part of SpaceX’s Starlink Internet Services, which provide internet in places where traditional service providers do not operate.
Apart from the Chinese government, citizens have also focused their ire on Musk. One of them has said that Musk’s products are like space junk and compared them with American space weapons for warfare. Meanwhile, Chinese media outlets have politicized the issue, stating that Musk must be trying China’s sensibility when it comes to space.
Musk’s other company, Tesla, too faced criticism in China, with an individual protesting over the safety of Tesla’s electric vehicles. After the protest became extremely popular on social media, Tesla apologized to the disgruntled customer.
Overall, the innovator has had a rocky history with China, with Musk bluntly stating in 2015 that China could threaten his space ambitions. When asked if Starlink could be used to provide uncensored internet to the Chinese, Musk replied that China had the option to shoot his satellites down.