Elon Musk’s Starlink project is ‘very scary’ in China, expert says

As Americans try out the latest Starlink dishes on their RVs, a space expert says Elon Musk’s Starlink is making the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ‘nervous’ as the ‘only’ player in the field now when it’s about the United States’ strategic space race with China.

“It’s important to understand that Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is the only thing keeping the United States in the space race with China,” said Brandon Weichert, space expert and author of “Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower,” to The Epoch Times in an interview at the end of May.

Falcon 9 countdown and launch into orbit at Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 18, 2022. (SpaceX via AP/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Expert says Starlink, now ‘perhaps vital to waging a war’ , makes America’s rivals ‘nervous’, but Elon Musk comes under double ‘attack’ from China from the White House and the military establishment.

Starlink, a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, Musk’s spacecraft company, currently consists of more than 2,400 satellites that orbit the earth at an altitude more than 60 times lower than the satellites that carry most of today’s global Internet.

The CCP is “nervous”

The reason US adversaries are nervous about Starlink, according to the space expert, is that the satellite system is resilient to the large-scale attacks that US adversaries are currently capable of and therefore renders ‘destruction’ of the American space infrastructure much more difficult than before.

“Starlink is a prime example of a private sector profit motive providing a key example of how the military’s vital-but-vulnerable satellite constellations can be protected,” Weichert said.

“Starlink’s strength is its redundancy. We saw last summer that a solar flare knocked out 20 or even 40 Starlink satellites, and Musk didn’t even flinch in the space of a day. These systems have been replaced because they are small and cheap,” he noted.

As Weichert details in his book, Russia and China previously had the ability to prevent the US military from accessing communications networks by attacking US satellites using, for example, electromagnetic pulse attacks.

Today, he says, Starlink threatens adversaries of the United States because the replaceability of the satellite network prevents them from maintaining an advantage over the United States in the space war.

“Both Russia and China are threatened by this capability because they know how the Americans could use it to their advantage,” he added. “And that’s why these two countries are livid right now and are desperately trying to come up with countermeasures to maintain what they think is their advantage, with counterspace capabilities, the ability to deny the Americans the use of space in case of conflict. »

According to the expert, a sign that the CCP is under threat from Starlink is when the CCP complained to the United Nations that the Chinese space station “Tiangong” had to maneuver to avoid collision with Starlink satellites on two separate occasions.

“China denounced the fact that one of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites nearly collided with his new modular space station, which was of course exaggerated… but they made it clear to us that they were very afraid of this new communication system ,” said Weichert.

The United States refuted the CCP’s assertions in a note verbale in response. SpaceX released a statement acknowledging the encounter and saying it is monitoring the flight path of its satellites to maintain a safe distance from Tiangong.

The expert added that Starlink has cyber defense capabilities that look impressive even to Pentagon defense specialists.

“The Pentagon’s electronic warfare (EW) specialist witnessed in real time the SpaceX operators’ defense of the Starlink satellite’s on-board system against Russian cyberattacks, relentless cyberattacks,” Weichert said, quoting Dave Tremper, the director of electronic warfare at the Pentagon, who told Breaking Defense that SpaceX’s capabilities seemed “impressive” to him.

Therefore, if the Chinese military attempted a cyberattack on Starlink’s embedded operating systems, Weichert says, “they would have a very rude awakening.”

Sole player in the space race

Weichert says SpaceX is now “the only thing keeping the United States in the space race with China” and must maneuver through institutional forces within the United States to succeed.

“The current problem is that our own government doesn’t seem to recognize or care that SpaceX is the only property that keeps America in the new space race, that keeps us competitive,” Weichert said, “The NASA is asleep at the switch and Space Force can’t figure out what it wants to do,” Weichert said.

“Meanwhile, American leaders, for the most part, do not view space as a strategic domain. China does. Musk does,” he added.

The reasons for the lack of action, Weichert said, include a glaring disagreement over political ideology between SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and the White House.

“[SpaceX] is also under heavy political pressure due to Elon Musk’s political pronouncements, particularly recently. Elon Musk is no friend of the Biden administration ,” Weichert said, adding that this disagreement has “put a giant target” on Musk’s back.

Musk’s recent criticism of the Biden administration and the Democratic Party has sparked controversy in the political world. The billionaire suggested that Biden is not the ‘real’ US president and called the Democratic Party a party of ‘division’ and ‘hate’.

“They have now started going after Musk. They’re going to go after him just with a regulatory issue about buying Twitter: not because of anything bad, just because he’s a political rival,” Weichert said. “So the problem now is not the Chinese or the Russians.”

Another key reason behind America’s stagnation in the space race, Weichert said, is a “cartel”-style military establishment that is “nowhere near as innovative these days as SpaceX.” »

“What you have now is essentially a cartel of a handful of very powerful defense contractors who don’t really care about creating weapons systems that are both effective, time-efficient, in terms of development, and which are cheaper than they are now,” said the expert.

“And so SpaceX is undermining this old defense industry cartel approach. This is why Musk is hated. That’s why he’s under attack from bureaucracy and all the political attacks from the Biden administration,” he added.

The expert suggests America adopt SpaceX’s innovative model, which uses networks of easily replaceable satellites to make America’s space infrastructure more resilient to wartime attacks from space.

“Whether it’s SpaceX that gets the contract to do it or another company, they have to replicate the SpaceX model. That’s the key,” Mr. Weichert said.

In his book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Weichert warns that America must shift its paradigm in its vision of space and consider space as a “strategic domain” in order to avoid a “catastrophic surprise attack”. of Russia or China – which he calls the “Pearl Harbor of space” – in times of war.

“America is a juggernaut. When we set in motion as a country, we are unstoppable. However, the first steps are always the most difficult for our country,” remarks Mr. Weichert.

“Today the United States faces a Pearl Harbor from space – and everyone in Washington knows it. »

The Epoch Times has contacted the US Space Force for comment.

Translation of The Epoch Times by Astro Univers

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