Musk’s Starlink A Threat To Chinese National Security? – Outlook India

The tech billionaire’s constellation of mini satellites has caused China some worry, as it now seeks techniques to destroy it
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Updated: 25 Oct 2022 5:35 pm
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Xian-based research institute, the Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology, claims that it can now theoretically neutralise enemy satellites in near-earth orbit (NEO).
The military research institute stated that it has created a computer model that simulates a nuclear detonation in space, according to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The report also considers Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system a threat, adding that this too could be destroyed.
According to the simulation, anti-satellite weapons were detonated at different altitudes with varied yields to analyse its impact and measure performance. A 10-megaton nuclear device exploded at ground level will create a fireball at nearly 5km with moderate flash burns up to 32km.
But Chinese military scientists observed that the same warhead detonated at an altitude of 80km would be much more devastating. Within five minutes, the cloud of nuclear radiation would rise to 500km and contaminate more than 140,000 sq km, a paper in a peer-reviewed journal stated.
The paper went on to write that a nuclear explosion in NEO would have a far more destructive impact as unlike Earth, space does not have any air or atmosphere for the radiation to spread. It added, “Due to the high concentration of fission products inside the debris cloud, the released gamma rays and beta particles are strong, making their effects on spacecraft communications within the affected area stronger”.
The enhanced destructive impact was described in April 2022 by a researcher with the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications under China’s Strategic Support Force (for space, cyber, electronic and psychological warfare). He had written that “A combination of soft and hard kill methods should be adopted to make some Starlink satellites lose their functions and destroy the constellation’s operating system”.
When it comes to destroying satellites, China conducted its anti-satellite test in February 2007 while India did so recently, in March 2019. The Chinese reason for the test was its fear of a space-based US missile destroying its nuclear arsenal and therefore seeking a potential ban on space weapons, according to the Center for Foreign Relations. India’s sole purpose behind the test was to safeguard its space assets.
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