China urges U.S. to protect its space station from satellites

<p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>A foreign ministry spokesman accused Washington on Tuesday of ignoring its treaty obligations to protect the safety of the Tiangong station’s three-member crew following the July 1 and Oct. 21 incidents.</p></p><p><p>The Tiangong performed “evasive maneuvers” to “prevent a potential collision” with Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the government said in a Dec. 6 complaint to the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.</p></p><p><p>The United States should “take immediate measures to prevent such incidents from happening again,” said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian.</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>The American Embassy in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.</p></p><p><p>Musk also is chairman of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, Inc. The company opened its first factory outside the United States in Shanghai in 2019.</p></p><p><p>The Tiangong, however, is a prestige project for the ruling Communist Party, making it unlikely Beijing would tolerate disruption even by a major foreign investor in China.</p></p><p><p>The main module of the Tiangong was launched in April. Its first crew returned to Earth in September following a 90-day mission.</p></p><p><p>The second crew of two men and one woman arrived on Oct. 16 for a six-month mission.</p></p><p><p>SpaceX plans to launch some 2,000 Starlink satellites as part of a global internet system to bring internet access to underserved areas.</p></p><p><p>In its 34th and latest launch, SpaceX sent 52 satellites into orbit aboard a rocket Dec. 18.</p></p>