Is Musk’s Starlink a threat to Chinese national security? | Techno Glob

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Xi’an-based research institute, the Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology, claims it can now theoretically neutralize enemy satellites in near-Earth orbit (NEO).

According to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a military research institute said it has created a computer model that simulates a nuclear explosion in space.

The report also considers Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system as a threat and could also be destroyed.

According to the simulation, the anti-satellite weapon was detonated at different altitudes to analyze its impact and measure the performance. A 10-megaton nuclear device detonated at ground level would produce a fireball at about 5 km with a moderate flash burn of up to 32 km.

But Chinese military scientists observed that the same warhead detonated at an altitude of 80 km would be more destructive. Within five minutes, the cloud of nuclear radiation would grow up to 500 km and contaminate more than 140,000 square km, according to a paper in a peer-reviewed journal.

The paper further wrote that a nuclear explosion in a NEO would have a more devastating effect because, unlike Earth, space has no air or atmosphere to diffuse the radiation. It further states, “Due to the high concentration of fission products in the debris cloud, the released gamma rays and beta particles are stronger, making their effects on spacecraft communications in the affected area stronger”.

The enhanced destructive effect was described in April 2022 by a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications under China’s Strategic Support Force (for space, cyber, electronic and psychological warfare). He wrote that “soft and hard kill methods should be used to cause some Starlink satellites to lose their function and destroy the constellation’s functionality”.

When it comes to destroying satellites, China conducted an anti-satellite test in February 2007 while India did it more recently in March 2019. China said the test was because it feared a space-based US missile would destroy its nuclear arsenal and was therefore looking for it. A possible ban on space weapons, according to the Center for Foreign Relations. India’s sole motive behind this test was to protect its space assets.

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