China Launching 12992 Satellites to Suppress SpaceX Starlink Will Backfire

Researchers say China plans to build a huge satellite network in near-Earth orbit to provide internet services to users around the world – and to stifle Elon Musk’s Starlink. The project has the code name “GW”, according to a team led by associate professor Xu Can with the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Space Engineering University in Beijing. China satellites are to directly compete with—and monitor—SpaceX’s Starlink constellations.

China targeting SpaceX Starlink will cause US regulators to rally to SpaceX. The FAA has been delaying some approvals for SpaceX. China will cause the US government to boost support for SpaceX and accelerate approvals. SpaceX will get accelerated approvals for Super Heavy Starship and for complete Gen 2 and Gen 3 Starlink satellites.

Researchers at the People’s Liberation Army’s Space Engineering University in Beijing involved with the China Satellite Network Group Co are hoping, according to the South China Morning Post, to “ensure that our country 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 made claims about wanting to be able to track, and even disable, Starlink satellites with their own constellations. Researchers with the group have expressed concern about Starlink satellites’ maneuverability, and claim that ability might be used to target and destroy other objects in space.

China matched SpaceX launches in 2022 with both launching 61 times. However, SpaceX launched more mass to orbit and SpaceX is tripling its launch mass in 2023. China could ramp up space spending to launch 13,000 satellites by the end of 2024. Under normal circumstances it would take until about 2026 for China to perform a mass production of new satellites and an increase in rocket production.

SpaceX has nearly 4000 Starlink satellites already and is launching about 5,000 more satellites in 2023.

If SpaceX successfully gets the fully Reusable Super Heavy Starship flying then SpaceX will be able to increase its launch rate and mass to orbit by 10 to 1000 times.

If SpaceX gets full US government support then they could get expedited approvals for Gen 2, Gen 3 and Gen 4 satellites. SpaceX stepping up to 100,000 or 1 million Starlink satellites would not be matched by China until China gets fully reusable rockets.

42 thoughts on “China Launching 12992 Satellites to Suppress SpaceX Starlink Will Backfire”

  1. I, for one, like the idea of China Satellite constellation to compete with Starlink.
    I’m not sure they have, or will develop in time, the technology needed to make the enterprise a commercial success.
    China (Russia too) must develop rapidly reusable rockets and from what I see, they have not started yet.
    They could have a jump start with some industrial espionage but the success of SpaceX is less of a technological advancement and more of a successful entrepreneurial execution of a business plan. With numerous cases of personal risk taking.
    This is not what the current China Regime encourage, so I doubt they will get it.

  2. It is not a matter of intellect nor drive. Whether of Asian, European, or African descent, all humans are capable of great achievement.

    Rather, it is a matter of culture and systems. Southeastern and Southern Asians, in addition to Middle Eastern Asians, living in the US earn more (on average) than Anglo (white) men. Even Laotian women in the U.S. earn more than the average white male.

    What holds back China and India are not intellect nor ambition; as corrupt as the U.S. seems (and it is corrupt, whether at the federal, state, or local level), it is not nearly as corrupt, nor is the general population nearly as passive or afraid of their governments as in most countries in the world.

    For now.

    But who knows what the future holds? Anyone who knows anything about history knows this: Nations rise and nations fall. Governments rise and governments fall.

    No group of peoples, nor form of government, stay in power forever.

    Not a one.

    Thank God for America and for Elon Musk.

  3. Wow, this is my first time here, and while the discussion is mostly civil, the opinions are quite, shall we say, diverse. It amazes me that some people think that just because a nation, or a continent, like India, or Africa, or the EU, have a lot of people they will automatically lead the effort for the technology that will be needed in the future. India and China both have in the neighborhood of a billion plus people, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
    While China has a huge number of people, and many very intelligent and forward thinking people, they also have a huge, like really huge, number of people living in relative poverty. The same thing with India, and while they could probably both figure out the difficulty that comes with such a task as a satellite network, finding the workforce that is not only large enough, but also educated enough to build the infrastructure will likely be the undoing.
    Like it or not, the west does have a huge lead when it comes to space and the ability to deliver payloads there, and it is ever increasing, with private companies beginning to come on board. In about 4.5 hours from now, SpaceX will launch a vehicle to the ISS, with 4 astronauts aboard, including 3 Americans and one representative from the UAE.
    I am not as naive as to think that America is the dominating country that we once were, but in some areas, we still have the competitive edge, if not outright dominance. Space is one of those areas.
    And while people forget, China still relies on America for the purchase of their exports, to maintain their financial ability to manipulate their currency. When I see people saying that America is fading as a world power, I understand that they are just saying what some pundit said on a show that they watched, or something that they read. In reality, the truth is much more complicated. There is no doubt that we are still dominant as far as the world’s military power. Our currency, as shaky as it sometimes is, remains the world currency, due to the fact that America is a relatively rich nation.
    As far as population is concerned, while China and India are the two largest nations in population, America is 3rd, with some 330 million people or so, and a pretty well educated population at that, with not just technological knowledge, but also the infrastructure and the trained professionals that can build things, from military arms, to complicated electronics. That we have neglected to work on computer chips and such is something that we are striving to improve as time goes by. They are building new facilities in the U.S., with a government program called CHIPS, with at least 60 billion in investments over the coming years, with production expected to begin in the second half of the decade. And it could be as much as 80 billion more, depending on how things go for Intel, who is building their new facility in Ohio.
    We always hear about the problems that America has, and they are certainly many. But we need to remember that we are still doing some pretty great things, due to our capitalistic nature, and also with investment from the government, which often screws up everything that they touch, but in a case like this, President Biden, far from my favorite president of all time, deserves great credit for the incentives that he signed to encourage both the ability to compete on the national stage with other countries making chips, with a 2% market share expected to go as high as 10% after the companies are up to speed, with the main one being Intel.
    I do have to say that I was educated some about the problem of space debris, and that is why I followed the link that brought me here. I found this youtube video showing a rendition of the debris that is being tracked, and even as small as 1mm. I will post the link here, in case anyone else is interested. And also, thanks for the input from everyone who posted here. I did make me think and learn, which is always a good thing.

  4. You’re incredibly naive if you think the US government will rally to support SpaceX versus China.
    China will bribe the US government to get them to NOT help SpaceX, assuming that the US government even showed any interest in helping SpaceX (the current administration is very pro china and anti SpaceX). So no. China will do as it pleases and the US government will not do anything that makes China unhappy.

    • For all his failings, Biden is anything but pro-China. Do the research. One of his greatest concerns (back before China began torpedoing its own economy) was that they might continue to present a successful façade to the world for long enough to win more support for their dictatorship method of government (that itself masquerades as a human hive model for society where the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few).

      And that’s the primary source of contention. The US tends to espouse some sort of equilibrium between the rights and needs of the individual, and those of the society itself. China give only lip service, at best, for anything resembling individual rights (and for anyone who is not Chinese). And their support for the needs of society is really only a transparent cover for their support for the needs and desires of their supreme leader(s).

  5. >China targeting SpaceX Starlink will cause US regulators to rally to SpaceX.

    Swalwell and Beijing Biden will be happy to help their Chinese overlords, you mean.

  6. Russia is threatening to destroy communication satellites supporting Ukraine. I don’t know if they can do it or not, but assuming even 10% could be destroyed, that is almost certain to cause a Kessler cascade and debris raining down all over the world as orbits decay, even over Russia itself, the biggest and closest country on the way.
    An uncoordinated set of independent networks of 10s of 1000s of satellites would be even worse.
    I guess air travel, or certainly space travel, will get more hazardous for a while. Who will be held responsible for the damage/deaths on the ground?
    Biden was worried about shooting down a single China balloon with 3-bus sized payload over the U.S. That is a microcosm of what could happen, but also an example of 1000s of suborbital objects to be hit on the way down by satellite debris.

    • Nah, a Kessler cascade would only affect air travel if it knocked out GPS, and GPS satellites are, IIRC, at too high an altitude to be at risk.

      Very little of the incoming debris would be large enough to survive reentry to the altitude that commercial air travel happens at.

    • Starlink Sats are in very low orbits and engineered to burn up completely on re-entry. It’s a primary design feature since the whole constellation is intended to be de-orbited and replaced every 5 years.

      So even if an adversary were to attack significant numbers of them, a Kessler effect or hazards to people on the ground aren’t going to to be a consequence.

    • Kessler syndrome would be difficult to pull off at such low altitudes! Most debris would be short lived.

      Also spacex can fight Kessler and make wrecking orbital altitudes even harder during times of war by operating satellites at even lower altitudes where uncontrolled debris will de-orbit very quickly!

      Until now, no one has had that capacity to launch and replace so many satellites needed for those low altitudes, but spacex can.

      Fact is China and Russia will run out of expensive GTO (ground to orbit) missiles well before spacex runs out of satellites.

  7. Space is clearly the next sphere of conflict for USA/China, and these mega constellations will inevitably be targeted by aggressively contending superpowers. Not hard to damage them using ground based lasers or a few tonnes of ball bearings distributed in orbit.

    Only way to avoid that is to make the constellations an internationally shared utility – ensuring there are no motivated have-nots. Perhaps rent control of satellites to countries they are over.

    • To countries they are over? Satellite constellations are in low earth orbit, meaning their relative speed to the ground is 28 thousand km per hour. Even over Russia they won’t stay longer than 10 minutes

    • “make the constellations an internationally shared utility”

      Can’t work when some of the countries regard the internet as something that should be rigidly regulated, monitored, and controlled, by government to the point where even asking certain questions or using certain words is forbidden.

  8. China’s only problems with this plan:

    -Lacking the ability to launch this many satellites
    -By the time they launch anything near this many satellites SpaceX will have global coverage
    -By the time they launch anything near this many satellites Blue Origin will have satellites
    -China’s unquenchable desire to censor the internet pushes normal people to choose another platform

    This is a me-too PPT project meant to justify extra money being spent on rockets to boost China’s domestic GDP. It would be useful to nations already in China’s sphere of influence (e.g. Pakistan) but not enough countries will sign up to merit the investment in a globe spanning internet.

  9. China is doing it, simply because it’s one of a few countries which has such capability. They have right to have such big satellite net, as any other country. If US can have it, any other country can, US is not special(not in eyes of 96% of humanity) who are not living on a piece of land we call USA.

    I am sure that, if Ethiopia GDP would be $10T, they would build their starlink to compete with US.

    When India will develop a bit more, I am also 100% sure, they will create such huge constellation/s, the same with EU(already working on that), African Union(in the future), maybe ASEAN will get together or Indonesia alone will do it(largest ASEAN economy, with population almost as big as US, so potential is there, although right now even tiny countries like Israel or Singapore have more advanced tech, science and innovation output than Indonesia). But I think that in time all regions will ulimately converge. Non Western world simply needs more time, because they are soooo far behind that it’s impossible to close that >100 year old development gap in short amount of time(Although maybe AGI/ASI will help.) US and EU are not standing in place, thet are still “escaping” and growing larger and larger.

    I perfectly understand China. In current political climate, they obviously can’t count on US tech and won’t use Starlink(at least it’s hard to imagine they will, for non private usage) just as US wouldn’t use China’s space internet if China would have such and US not. US would also built one for themselves.

    Get used to this “new normal”, USA domination is over. Rest of the world is catching up. China is simply the first region to catch up, therefore all US and world attention is on them right now. Soon China will be one of many such players. I am watching now India closely, Believe me, they will surprise the world before 2030. They will probably develop wayy faster than China. Mainly due to population size(already bigger than China). If Africa will work together in simular fashion like EU, they could develop even faster than China and India, once again – due to population. India is growing by 18M per year, Africa by around 37M-40M per year. Educate those kids, and with “armies” of such giant laborforce( in my opinion) they will be developed (by today’s standards) around 2030 (India and Africa).

    BTW. Just for some context, so you will have idea about what vast “energy”/”force” we’re talking here about. US entire labor force is 160M people. So basically not only Africa have already larger workforce, but they added whole US in past 4 years and will add another US in next 4 years, 2 US in mere 8 years and so on…Crazy time ahead(in terms of world development speed). They will also use 2020’s tech and knowledge in their development. Advanced AI alone can accelerate development by 10-10 000x.

    Competition is good in those late stage of capitalism, bacause in my opinion, thanks to it, progress will be faster. Faster we will be progressing, = faster we will end this miserable”era” and enter abundance age/ post Singularity world. I hope that in such world tribalism won’t exist.

    Back to China. In current “scarcity age” with strong tribalism, such activity from China will of course scare USA, activate tribal thinking, which will lead to more funding for innovation and space programmes, which (I think) is good for us all.

    • A silly rant.
      No one cares about World Domination. People in the Free World are doing what they want to do, making money they want to make, and living the life they want to live – somewhat free of regulatory obstacle, despite what some Talking Heads may mutter, for attention. And this, for whatever reason, has lead to the spread of Western culture – freely, not imposed, mandated, indoctrinated, or filtered/ censored. Of course this has lead to the spread of a common business/entertainment language, currency (mostly reserve), legal structure, political value system (non-autocratic), technological standards, corporate structure, means of exchange, intellectual properties, etc. Thus this has made it easier, in Free Countries, to innovate, create, test, fail, collaborate, and debate – a productive and commercial ‘chaos’.
      It is a shame that so many are intimidated by this unstructured progress, this unevenly distributed entrepreneurial energy that has spawned such Incidents of Greatness. It is a shame that intellectual property cannot be automatically, freely, and widely distributed – but it is within Human Nature (that is not so incentivized) to copy rather than problem-solve, to seek status rather than savour one’s own accomplishments, to prove one’s own ability to ‘keep up’ rather than find one’s own path.
      And so such work shall continue, and the One or Many Others can either find progress in their own values or they can belly-ache or threaten or show-boat or politically-maneuver or do whatever Special Operation they need to see their culture fulfilled.

    • You must be a leftist. You don’t acknowledge Human Nature, or endemic corruption throughout the “Developing World”

    • “USA domination is over”

      It was never about domination. If it was, the US economy would still be around 50% of the world’s total, as it was at the end of WW II.

      It was about trying to make the world safe for trade and travel (which also served to help sequester certain enemies whose cultural values, or lack thereof, required they seek to challenge those less controlling than themselves), which required globalization, which required being backed by the US economy and the US military. Modern day China only exists because of globalization. When it ends they are in serious trouble.

      Fortunately, for a superpower to fail, it is generally necessary for another to supplant it. So what do we have waiting in the wings to do that? China? Russia? India? Brazil? The Caliphate? The European Union? Nigeria?

      Also, it generally takes a few centuries for a dominant superpower to fade and, even then, it can still remain a serious player. London (the capital of the last topmost superpower) still commands considerable influence.

  10. The more immediate question is why would anyone who has an alternate access to the Internet voluntarily place themselves inside the Great Chinese Firewall. I mean, it’s not like Chinese Internet censorship is an unsubstantiated rumour at this point…

    • The firewall applies to China. Will they apply it to customers around the world? And what are the customers needs? My company in Brazil needs internet access for our own infrastructure projects in remote areas without 4g

      So the real question is who do we trust may not steal our data. US or China?

      While i suppose most americans will think it’s better if US steals their data, many other countries may see no difference between US or China.

      Many Latin American countries where US always muddled may even think it’s safer if China does so, as it has less interests in the area.

      Then next question is price… well, usually, it’s the first

      • Believe you me, China will apply the Firewall to whomever they can get away with. Particularly in South America: I’m Brazilian as well, and the Chinese have been busy buying as many electricity-generating and agropecuary resources as our government has managed to sell. It was only through sheer coincidence of timing that they haven’t been able to gobble up Eletrobras.

        Now, if you want to play these games and pretend that we have a binary choice between being robbed blind by the US or being robbed blind by China, then I can only say that I’m glad that I don’t have to rely on rural 4G, or else I’d be stuck with the decision you will make, and it seems like you have already made your decision. May God have mercy on our country.

        • The question is that only US and China will have these sat constellations.

          The great firewall will hardly matter to most international customers. Price will matter. And service quality. We need to transmit data from our work sites to the hq.

          The great firewall went affect employees unless they want to watch videos on YouTube regarding China. But then, we have our own restrictions on what they can watch on the cell phones we provided.

  11. This is a monumental issue.
    Though I personally don’t believe that China can actually interfere in that network in a meaningful way, within the next several years – just more Chinese garbage products – but in Space; I do believe that corporate and national sabotage/ ‘undermining of functionality’ in orbit was inevitable.
    It is unclear how an entity, national or otherwise, can influence the quantities, locations, and efficacy of objects in orbit – outside of Russia’s ridiculous satelite destruction exercise (possibly leading to an Article 5 action, if against certain Assets). The US Space Force appears to be considering a ‘monitoring’ and management protocol -whatever that means- going forward. Certainly considered in Reagan’s 80s (before my time) SDI efforts, if only philosophically, the militarization and political-partitioning of orbits from vLEO to GEO is now underway. Since this Ukraine v Russia (mini WW3) will likely be the rich world’s last Great Land Battle (of course not considering Taiwan), ‘in-play’ military satelite monitoring will take a back seat. But communications? Industrial-military infrastructure build-up/ placement monitoring? Naval group movement? Bunker install?
    Anyway – mostly behind the scenes- but certainly epic.

    • Ah these ridiculous cultures. Always playing catch-up, always reacting victims, always resentful, always obsessed with their own place/ position/ standing in the world, always feeling contained and obstructed, always seeking to mimic and claim improvement. Why? Are the people of these places only functional and non-violent when their Leaders can assure them of their own current or potential Greatness? Craziness.

      • Hah. Wait until you see the drama when the first Exploitation Fleets of nanos leave to access and harvest the juiciest NEOs with their untold wealth.
        I never really thought, until now, that scifi’s theme of having Navies in space was realistic; a military multi-faceted fleet of varying purpose craft with the intentions of securing claims, defending infrastructure, prosecuting/ enforcing boundaries and rights, and undertaking operations to maintain national interest.
        But hey – Wild West Rush 2050, (or better, a Battle of Leyte Gulf) between here and the Belt, is coming.
        Geez, I hope it doesn’t go like The Expanse narrates.

      • When the enemy has a perceived moral high ground, you can say you have a difference of opinion. That’s what the Chinese do. They’ll be a legit “alternative” until it’ll be too late for the world to understand the mistake.

        • A fascinating culture: China. I sense a lot more buy-in by the population, though they may grumble, to be a technological and cultural superpower, despite the autocracy. Much unique and astounding accomplishment pre-1919 all the way back to 2000 BC. My understanding is that it is a very different relationship between people and government than other autocracies and democracies – almost a paternal (father of the family) vibe. Hopefully, they will see within themselves a positive technological direction that does not include threatening neighbours and buying out other developing countries through infrastructure. It would seem they are one of the most completely self-reliant countries – little need to dominate or bluster on the world stage. Though it is unclear what the agrarian folk think of the western-flavoured modernity and lifestyle.

          • Never forget that you can’t trust apparent public opinion in a country like China. They expend vast resources making sure that anybody who expresses the ‘wrong’ opinion suffers badly, so essentially everybody but the suicidally determined watch what they say, even in private.

            They’ll continue to look like the public supports them right up until it all falls apart.

  12. Rationally, the US government would respond the way you suggest. SpaceX’s vitality is an existentially important US asset, both commercially and for military purposes.

    But the regulators haven’t been giving SpaceX trouble for rational reasons. They’ve been doing it for political reasons. Musk is identified as aligned with the Republicans now, simply by virtue of not being sufficiently aligned with the Democrats. He’s become a threat to the left’s capacity to censor our public discourse, which capacity they treasure and rely on.

    That makes him a political enemy of the State so long as the regulators are controlled by the left, and that’s most of the time even when Republicans control the Executive branch. And that’s not even taking into account penetration of our bureaucracy by Chinese intelligence services.

    Regardless of what China does, Musk is going to face a regulatory headwind until at least mid-2025. And that’s if a Republican is elected President determined to call off the regulatory dogs.

    So, what are the Chinese aiming for with their own constellation? I suspect they’re preparing to be able to initiate a Kessler cascade at the press of a button, to be able to deny adversaries use LEO assets at some militarily critical moment. At least that’s my guess.

    • Wow. This is the most agreeable and common-sensical thing that I have seen posted here at NBF in a very long time.

    • The Republicans wouldn’t have such a damn problem if they simply stopped electing mentally unstable idiots with behavioral issues into office.

      You bring me another Bush Jr, or a Romney and you’ll get a vote. You bring me a knuckle dragging loudmouth that makes a mockery of the political system with disrespectful behavior and an inability to have a discussion (man or woman) and you’ve lost a vote.

      • Yeah, all they have to do is nominate a Democrat who finds it useful to call himself a Republican, and everything will be fine.

        Oh, wait, Romney DID run as a Republican in 2012, and the Democrats savaged him. So, no, that doesn’t actually work.

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