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China urges US to protect its space station from satellites

China urges US to protect its space station from satellites

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for an awards ceremony in Berlin on Dec 1, 2020. (File photo: AP/Hannibal Hanschke, Pool)

BEIJING: China is calling on the United States to protect a Chinese space station and its three-member crew after Beijing complained that satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX nearly struck the station.

A foreign ministry spokesman accused Washington on Tuesday (Dec 28) of ignoring its treaty obligations to protect the safety of the Tiangong station’s three-member crew following the Jul 1 and Oct 21 incidents.

The Tiangong performed “evasive maneuvers” to “prevent a potential collision” with Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies, the government said in a Dec 6 complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The US should “take immediate measures to prevent such incidents from happening again”, said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian.

Zhao accused Washington of failing to carry out its obligations to “protect the safety of astronauts” under a 1967 treaty on the peaceful use of space.

The American embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The main module of the Tiangong was launched in April. Its first crew returned to Earth in September following a 90-day mission. The second crew of two men and one woman arrived on Oct 16 for a six-month mission.

SpaceX plans to launch about 2,000 Starlink satellites as part of a global Internet system to bring Internet access to underserved areas. In its 34th and latest launch, SpaceX sent 52 satellites into orbit aboard a rocket on Dec 18.

Source: AP/kg

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