China says its space station dodged Starlink satellites twice this year

SpaceX's constellation might pose a safety risk.

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An EVA maneuver outside of the Chinese space station
Guo Zhongzheng/Xinhua via Getty Images

Astronomers aren't the only ones taking issue with SpaceX's Starlink satellites. As CNET reports, China has filed a complaint with the United Nations over two reported near-collisions between the in-progress Tiangong space station and Starlink vehicles. According to Chinese officials, the station had to perform evasive maneuvers on July 1st and October 21st this year to minimize the chance of a collision.

The accusations line up with astronomer Jonathan McDowell's conjunction observations for both days. China further argued that SpaceX's satellites weren't always predictable. During the October incident, the Starlink craft was "continuously" manuvering in a way that made it difficult to predict the orbital path.

We've asked SpaceX for comment. China has already demanded action, however. In its complaint, the country asked the UN Secretary-General to remind countries (read: the US) that parties in the Outer Space Treaty are responsible for incidents beyond Earth, even if they involve private companies.

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China has created its own share of incidents in the past. A 2007 anti-satellite missile test created debris that poses threats to the International Space Station and other spacecraft to this day. All the same, the complaint suggests the privatization of space is making these near-accidents more commonplace — particularly when SpaceX, Amazon and others are launching internet services that depend on huge satellite constellations.

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China says its space station dodged Starlink satellites twice this year