SpaceX’s Starlink business may be facing new competition, this time backed by a powerful government, as reported by SCMP. According to researchers, China aims to operate a massive network of internet-service provide satellites to stifle Elon Musk’s Starlink.
The project is code-named “GW,” as revealed by a team headed by Xu Can, an associate professor at the People’s Liberation Army’s Space Engineering University in Beijing.
This tallies with reports last year that China may be developing anti-satellite weapons targeting the Starlink network.
The GW network will contain 12,992 satellites to be owned by a new entity named China Satellite Network Group.
When China plans to start launching the satellites is not known yet, but it wants to have not less than 12,000 in orbit by 2027. Xu revealed China intends to set up its constellation before SpaceX completes its own Starlink deployment.
Xu also said the Chinese satellites could be put in orbits that Starlink satellites have not reached yet to gain an advantage and even suppress the rival service.
China could also equip its satellites with an anti-Starlink payload which may conduct close-range and long—term surveillance. However, according to Xu, Starlink satellites have similar capabilities that allow them to receive data from the US Department of Defence and have sensors that can monitor their environment.
Taiwan has also been inspired to set up its own Starlink-like network to protect itself from attack.
Musk revealed in October that China asked him not to expand Starlink into its territories.
Starlink has over 3,000 satellites in orbit, but SpaceX aims for more than 40,000 to make the service available worldwide.