China says its space station has dodged Starlink satellites twice this year


Astronomers aren’t the only ones having trouble with SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. As CNET reports, China has filed a complaint with the United Nations over two reported near-collisions between the running Tiangong space station and Starlink vehicles. According to Chinese officials, the station had to perform evasive maneuvers on July 1 and October 21 this year to minimize the chance of a collision.

The accusations match astronomer Jonathan McDowell’s conjunction observations for both days. China further argued that SpaceX’s satellites were not always predictable. During the October incident, the Starlink craft maneuvered “continuously” in a way that made it difficult to predict its orbit path.

We’ve asked SpaceX for comment. However, China has already demanded action. In its complaint, the country asked the UN Secretary-General to remind countries (read: the US) that parties to the Outer Space Treaty are responsible for incidents beyond Earth, including private companies.

China has created its own share of incidents in the past. A 2007 anti-satellite missile test created debris that continues to pose a threat to the International Space Station and other spacecraft to this day. Nevertheless, the complaint suggests that space privatization is making these near misses more commonplace — especially as SpaceX, Amazon and others launch Internet services that rely on massive satellite constellations.

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