Elon Musk is under fire from Chinese citizens over two near misses between Starlink satellites and the Chinese space station.
The Chinese government submitted a notice to the United Nations stating that their astronauts were put in danger during two near-misses with SpaceX satellites. The first altercation occurred in July, when the Chinese space station performed evasive maneuvers to avoid the collision with the Starlink satellite.
The second altercation occurred on October 21, when the space station had to maneuver once again to avoid a collision with a second Starlink satellite.
“Once it hits the Chinese space station and other spacecraft, it is still a business company and has nothing to do with the US government. Moreover, there are no police officers in space, and the responsibility for the crash can be broken. Too savage,” said Hu Xijin, user on the chinese microblogging website Weibo.
According to the document, both instances began when the Starlink satellites continually changed course, ending up in the same orbit as the Chinese space station.
The Chinese space station orbits at an altitude of 390 km, while the satellites moved up to an altitude of 382 km—enough to incite immediate concern for the Chinese astronauts on board.
As of now, Musk and SpaceX have yet to comment on the incident.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time potential impacts have endangered astronauts. In November, astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) were forced to shelter-in-place after an anti-satellite missile test (ASAT) was conducted by Russia.
The test created thousands of pieces of debris, threatening the safety of the ISS astronauts. Since the debris crossed the ISS’s orbit every 90 minutes, NASA was forced to call off a scheduled spacewalk, fearing that the debris could strike the free-floating astronauts.
These events are all taking place in the midst of a growing space debris crisis. Tens of thousands of satellites are set to be launched into orbit in the coming years, yet there has been no major effort to remove preexisting debris that could strike neighboring spacecraft and satellites.