Musk signed Starlink up to support Ukraine when it seemed a popular thing to do, but that was before he bought Twitter so that it could cater to far-right, conspiracy wing-nuts. Such types are big fans of that nice Mr Putin, and many of their favourite politicians collect regular cheques from him.
While Musk tried to back out of supplying Starlink, most of the contracts were not donated by him (as the voices in his head told him) but were donated by European governments and the US military.
Now it seems that Musk, through his skillful engineering been caught between Russia, China, the US, and Europe.
A paper in the February edition of Chinese journal Command and Control Simulation, The impact of the ‘Starlink’ constellation on space situational awareness and countermeasures, penned by researchers from the People’s Liberation Army Space Engineering University in Beijing looks at ways to take out Musk’s satellite network.
China also needs to get its own satellites up there if it wants to enjoy the same strategic advantages the USA derives from having SpaceX. While blowing the satellites up would be a solution, it would make a mess of that region of space so the Chinese are looking at lasers and “high-power microwaves” to disable Starlink.
Bejing has applied for orbits for a 13,000-strong fleet of satellites in orbits that Starlink doesn’t already occupy.
All this leaves Musk in a tricky position. Had he not supported Ukraine in the first place, the Chinese would not have worried about Starlink. But if he had not backed down on Ukraine, he would be finding more support from Europe and the US military. Another scenario is that NATO might also see Starlink as too crucial for its defence needs and effectively nationalise it to take it out of the hands of its erratic CEO.