At least since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has become clear how useful and dangerous the Starlink satellite internet can be. In China, people are already considering how to switch it off in an emergency.

When Elon Musk announces that his company SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet is available for a new country, it means a de facto new opportunity for the people there to achieve an unregulated, uncensored and free internet. And unlike local providers and traditional Internet lines, Musk’s satellites cannot be controlled or manipulated. In China, therefore, the first voices are now being raised that are looking for ways to eliminate such threats in an emergency.

The situation in Ukraine revealed that fast Internet access is a strategic advantage. Because even if the civilian population naturally also benefits from this, for example through access to independent media, a network like Starlink poses a real danger in the hands of an army.

Starlink: “A threat to national security”

Researchers in the service of the People’s Liberation Army therefore demand that China must be able to destroy such an Internet from space. This is the result of a study by the Beijing Institute for Tracking and Telecommunications, reports the “China Morning Post”. An internet like Starlink is said to pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and national security. It is unclear whether the study corresponds to the official position of the Chinese government.

An article on the Chinese military’s website substantiates the idea. It states: “While Starlink claims to be a civilian program offering high-speed internet services, it has a strong military background. This is also reflected in the fact that some of the launch pads were built at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the encrypted connection between the satellites and the Luftwaffe’s combat aircraft was included in the technical checks.”

Also read: Starlink as a strategic tool: How Elon Musk’s satellites help attack Russian tanks

In fact, the US Air Force reported at the end of March that they were currently testing the use of Starlink receiver modules in F-35A fighter jets. The goal: to remotely control large planes such as the F-35A Jet.

China apparently perceives this as a real threat – because as soon as the reliable piloting of a stealth bomber is possible, the army explains, nothing stands in the way of expanding to an entire network of unmanned combat aircraft.

Musk paves low Earth orbit

China is also very concerned about its dominance in “Low-Earth Orbit” (“LEO”), i.e. the earth-centered orbit up to an altitude of 2000 kilometers, which Starlink – and thus the USA – has now built up. There is space for a maximum of 50,000 satellites, they say. Should Starlink go ahead with its plans, 80 percent of this area with 42,000 Starlink satellites would be occupied by just one company.

The article states, “There’s a good chance Starlink will be exploited by the hegemony-obsessed US to plunge the world into further chaos or catastrophe.”

There still seems to be a lack of concrete ideas on how to stop the global giant in an emergency. The “China Morning Post” quotes from the study that consideration was given to microwave attacks and rocket fire. The latter already seems to be off the table, since the resulting space debris would pose a danger to other objects and individual attacks on the comparatively cheap satellites would be economically senseless.

A possible solution could also be the use of “Shijian-17”. This is a satellite equipped with gripper arms. As early as April 2021, a commander of the US Space Force warned that China could throw other objects out of their orbit with this type of satellite and thus endanger US spacecraft.

Meanwhile, a look at Russia is not worthwhile for China. So far, the occupiers have not found a way to disconnect Ukraine from satellite Internet. They seem to be trying to hack the network. So far without success, as SpaceX boss Elon Musk explained in early May.

Sources: China Morning Post, David Cowhig, CMC, Air Force, Nikkei