This week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellites faced heavy backlash from China after two nearly crashed into the Chinese space station.
China had even complained to the UN about the two incidents for putting its astronauts in danger by ignoring obligations under outer space treaties.
Elon Musk has responded to these claims saying that ‘tens of billions’ of satellites can be accommodated in orbits close to Earth.
‘Space is just extremely enormous, and satellites are very tiny,’ said Musk to the Financial Times.
His comments come after the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) claimed that Musk was ‘making the rules’ for the emerging commercial space industry.
Musk denied that his Starlink Internet Services project was effectively obstructing the entry of competitors to the satellite industry, saying that there is ample room in the Earth’s orbit for satellites.
‘This is not some situation where we’re effectively blocking others in any way. We’ve not blocked anyone from doing anything, nor do we expect to,’ he said.
‘A couple of thousand satellites is nothing. It’s like, hey, here’s a couple of thousand of cars on Earth, it’s nothing,’ he added.
This month, Josef Aschbacher, the director general of ESA, warned that the thousands of communications satellites launched by Starlink would result in there being far less space for competitors.
Other experts have said that much larger distances are needed between spacecraft to avoid collisions than Musk has suggested.
Scientists have also voiced concerns about the risks of collisions in space and called on world governments to share information about the estimated 30,000 satellites and other space debris that are orbiting Earth.
China claims that Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites nearly collided with the Chinese Space Station twice this year on 1 July and 21 October, according to a document submitted by China this month to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
‘For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control,’ Beijing said in the document published on the agency’s website.
The incidents behind the complaints, lodged with the UN’s space agency, have not yet been independently verified.
After the complaint was made public, Chinese social media users have taken to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, to criticise Elon Musk, Starlink and the US.
SpaceX has already launched almost 1,900 satellites as part of the Starlink network and plans to deploy thousands more.
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