Earlier this week, Mr Musk faced the ire of China after satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company, had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station. According to a document submitted by China to the UN space agency, the incidents occurred on July 1 and October 21.
The head of the European Space Agency (ESA) also attacked Mr Musk, saying that the billionaire tech entrepreneur was “making the rules” for the emerging commercial space industry.
Josef Aschbacher, the director-general of ESA, warned that the thousands of communications satellites launched by Starlink would result in there being far less space for competitors.
He said: “Space will be much more restrictive [in terms of] frequencies and orbital slots.
“The governments of Europe collectively should have an interest to . . . give European providers equal opportunities to play on a fair market.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Musk defended himself, saying that “tens of billions” of satellites can be accommodated in orbits close to Earth.
He said: “Space is just extremely enormous, and satellites are very tiny.”
The SpaceX CEO rejected suggestions that his Starlink project was effectively blocking the entry of competitors to the satellite industry, saying that there is plenty of room in the Earth’s orbit for more satellites.
He said: “This is not some situation where we’re effectively blocking others in any way. We’ve not blocked anyone from doing anything, nor do we expect to.
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“For safety reasons, the China Space Station took the initiative to conduct an evasive manoeuvre in the evening of that day to avoid a potential collision between the two spacecraft.”
China also cited article VI of the Outer Space Treaty, which was signed by all the space-faring nations of the world and forms the basis of international space law.
Article VI stated: “States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty.”