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China says Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites almost crashed into its space station…twice

The near-collisions occurred in July and October of 2021.

spacex starlink satellite
Image: SpaceX

Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet project, is quickly expanding but with that expansion comes risk. Namely, in this case, satellites cluttering up the space around the planet and smashing into other satellites and space stations.

That’s exactly what (almost) happened twice in 2021. China submitted a document to the UN last month detailing two different incidents where Starlink satellites nearly collided with China’s space station. The two incidents occurred on July 1 and October 21.

Thankfully, China was able to move its fledgling space station (which started construction in 2021) out of the way, but a collision could have spewed space debris around the earth’s orbit.

According to CNBC, SpaceX has sent up nearly 1,900 satellites so far, with more planned. While SpaceX’s goal of providing internet to more people is admirable, we also have to consider the sheer amount of stuff we are sending up to earth’s orbit.

As more satellites and stations make their way up, collisions become more of a risk. We can presume human life will eventually truly make its way to space and space pollution could cause issues for that in the future. This is because there is an estimated 228 million pieces of space debris traveling at enormous speeds around the globe.

space debris
Image: Live Science

With the earth constantly sending more things up to space, collisions become a more present threat. Imagine that a couple of satellites collide, spewing metal everywhere. That metal collides with other satellites, creating a domino effect.

While some heavier debris would eventually burn up in the earth’s atmosphere, much of it would be left as an ever-swirling monument of our failures.

READ MORE: Elon Musk says SpaceX is taking people to Mars in the next 10 years

Eventually, we would blanket earth’s orbit in fast-moving shit, essentially trapping us here until technology can be created that can truly clean up space debris. At present, tests for that aren’t going well. It would also damper current satellite functionality as satellites would be in constant danger of also being struck by debris.

So far, SpaceX hasn’t commented on China’s document to the UN, but we’ll update if something is made available.

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