The Kremlin can tell you: Starlink, a private satellite internet network set up by SpaceX and Elon Musk, can quickly find crucial military utility during an armed conflict. Part of the deadly operations carried out by Ukrainian drones thus relies on the American constellation, which is the only one able to maintain network connectivity when ground installations are cut off.
China has apparently taken notice. As reported in an article by the South China Morning Post (SMCP), scientists from the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications Technology, an organization dependent on the People’s Liberation Army, have begun to work on the issue.
In a recently published article, they emphasize the need for the country to find a technical way to get rid of the constellation of satellites if it were to constitute a “threat to national security” – therefore, in the event of an open conflict. with the United States, a scenario which is not improbable according to recent statements by Joe Biden.
“A combination of material and non-material methods of destruction should be adopted to cause certain Starlink satellites to lose function and destroy the constellation’s operating system”is it crudely written in the Chinese scientific journal Modern Defense Technology.
According to the paper’s lead author, Ren Yuanzhen, U.S. stealth drones and planes could increase the amount of exploitable and tradable data 100-fold if they were linked to the network provided by Starlink—in modern warfare, that data is weaponry.
In addition, the SMCP notes that if Starlink is initially a civilian system, its links with the Pentagon are already marked: the two parties have thus signed a pact to develop new technologies based on the satellite constellation, in particular a system of surveillance of weapons. hypersonic.
Elon Musk’s small satellites were also designed with the risk of destruction attempts in the event of a conflict in mind: their small thrust systems were designed in particular to allow them to move in the event of a physical threat in the space.
“The Starlink constellation is a decentralized system, is it still written in the article. The confrontation should not be thought against individual satellites, but against the system as a whole. This requires the implementation of effective and low-cost measures.”
The article does not recommend a particular solution, but as the SCMP notes, the Chinese army has already been working for years on systems (lasers, microwaves, etc.) capable of disturbing or destroying possible satellites. enemies.
From the ground or from space, China must be able to pick up Starlink signals to assess a possible threat, as well as to know precisely where the satellites of the constellation are, in which purely military objects could be hidden. .
In a context of great tension, this is the first time that such an attack on Starlink has been mentioned by an organization officially linked to the Chinese government. Which, for its part, is also working on its own constellation of satellites. Star Wars has only just begun.