China is in an uproar following reports that the Chinese space station Tiangong was forced to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid collision with Elon Musk's low-orbit Starlink satellite chain, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian urging the US to act more "responsibly".
A letter from China to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has revealed that the Tiangong station was forced to take measures known as "preventive collision avoidance control" to avoid collision with the Starlink satellites twice this year, in the months of September and November according to the Guardian.
China accused the US of ignoring international treaty obligations and engaging in irresponsible and unsafe conduct, stating that such incidents endangered the lives of astronauts.
"The manoeuvre strategy was unknown and orbital errors were hard to assess," Beijing said of the satellite involved in the October incident, adding that it took action to "ensure the safety and lives of in-orbit astronauts". It urged the UN to circulate the letter to other nations who were a part of the space treaty.
Beijing's complaint prompted heavy criticism on Chinese social media of Musk, whose electric car firm Tesla sells tens of thousands of vehicles in China each month. Musk is widely admired in China, although Tesla's reputation has been tarnished after a rash of recent crashes and scandals.
Experts have already pointed out that lOuter space, especially low-orbit areas around the Earth, were becoming increasingly crowded with junk and satellite debris. The International Space Station has also had to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid the debris of a Chinese military anti-satellite test conducted in 2007.
Starlink is a project by Musk's Space X and the US government to launch strings of satellite aimed at providing internet access to most of the world's population.