Project 'GW': China to thwart Starlink influence with '13,000' satellites

The plan is to dispatch a swarm of satellites in the lower Earth orbit to stop Elon Musk from monopolizing the low-Earth orbit space, claims a report.
Baba Tamim
Representational images: Satellites is space.
Representational images: Satellites is space.


China allegedly plans to deploy a swarm of satellites in low Earth orbit to compete with Elon Musk's Starlink and offer internet services, an alternative to people worldwide.

The plan to dispatch almost 13,000 satellites to throttle Starlink exposure comes under the mysterious project, code name "GW," according to People's Liberation Army's (PLA) space engineering researchers. 

"The 'GW' constellation will include 12,992 satellites owned by the newly established China Satellite Network Group Co", said the scientific team from the Space Engineering University in Beijing, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Friday. 

Though SpaceX anticipates having 12,000 satellites in orbit by 2027 and a final total of 40,000 orbiting devices, this attempt would overwhelm Starlink's present count of about 3,500 satellites.

China feels compelled to move so swiftly on this project because it wants to stop Starlink from monopolizing the low-Earth orbit space and barring other businesses or nations from using it. 

Starlink worries China

Researchers want to ensure that China "has a place in low orbit and prevent the Starlink constellation from excessively pre-empting low-orbit resources." 

And "gain opportunities and advantages at other orbital altitudes, and even suppress Starlink."

The China Satellite Network Group Co has also stated that they hope to use their own constellations to track and maybe deactivate Starlink satellites, noted the SCMP report. 

The researchers in the group are concerned about the maneuverability of Starlink satellites because they believe Musk's satellites could be used to target and destroy other spacecraft.

Therefore, Chinese researchers aspire to be able to match that potential by introducing their own fleet of satellites in the near space. 

China also wants to be able to identify each Starlink satellite and be aware of its movements as worries about the potential military uses of the Starlink satellite constellations continue to grow, particularly in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

How will Elon Musk and the US react? 

The academics from the Space Engineering University have advised China to launch an international "anti-Starlink" coalition to support this goal. This coalition might demand that SpaceX publicly disclose the precise positions of its satellites.

However, since this information is still unavailable, China's only chance of monitoring Starlink may be to launch its satellite power into orbit.

Although a launch date for these satellites has yet to be set, it will be interesting to see how Elon Musk and the United States respond to this information.

The paper about anti-Starlink measures was first published in the Chinese journal Command Control and Simulation on February 15, said SCMP

Meanwhile, the letters forming the project codename are yet to be known.

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