Elon Musk has divided opinion, with most people seeming to either love him or hate him. It seems the billionaire certainly isn’t China’s favorite person. The country has complained to the UN over claims that SpaceX Starlink satellites almost crashed into its space station twice in the past year.
According to a document submitted by China this month to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the country’s space station was forced to deploy prevention collision avoidance control measures in July and October to avoid colliding with Starlink satellites.
“China wishes to request the secretary general of the United Nations to circulate the above-mentioned information to all states parties to the Outer Space Treaty,” the report reads.
SpaceX has launched over 1,600 satellites into low-earth orbit to enable the Starlink service that beams down internet connectivity to remote areas. The company plans to have between 12,000 and 42,000 satellites in the coming years and has already received permission from the US Federal Communications Commission to launch up to 12,000.
Users of the Chinese microblogging site Weibo have reacted to news of the complaint with anger directed at Musk, SpaceX, and the US in general. The BBC notes that some have called the satellites “American space warfare weapons,” adding that “Musk is a new ‘weapon’ created by the US government and military.”
“The risks of Starlink are being gradually exposed, the whole human race will pay for their business activities,” wrote another.
But China doesn’t have a spotless past when it comes to near misses in space. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told The Guardian that “It is also fair to say that the US space station has several times over the past ten years had to dodge pieces from the Chinese military anti-satellite test of 2007. It’s not like the Chinese had a clean record here. The biggest debris event ever was the Chinese anti-satellite test.”
SpaceX has yet to comment on the matter.
December has been an eventful month for Musk. Not only was he named Time’s person of the year, but the CEO also said he would pay over $11 billion in taxes this year, more than any American in history.