SpaceX CEO and multi-billionaire Elon Musk were questioned on Chinese social networks on Tuesday after it became known that two of his satellites – according to Beijing – just failed to collide with the Tiangong space station.
According to a document sent by Beijing to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in early December, China’s Tiangong space station had to perform evasive manoeuvres twice to “avoid an encounter with SpaceX equipment.” That would have happened in July and October of this year. The Chinese space agency had to respond “to ensure the safety and survival of astronauts in orbit,” Beijing added.
SpaceX has not responded to the information at the time of writing, which has brought Elon Musk into the ire of Chinese internet users. “Prepare for a Tesla boycott,” shouted a user of the social network Weibo, under a hashtag that has since been seen more than 87 million times.
“Oh, the irony,” another vented. “We buy Teslas and give Musk money to launch satellites and throw them at the Chinese space station.” The Chinese market is crucial for the richest man globally, who has just been named Personality of the Year by American magazine Time. Tesla sells about a quarter of its production to China and has a factory in Shanghai.
SpaceX has launched a constellation of more than 1,500 satellites in recent years. That network, called Starlink, is intended to provide internet access to all corners of the world.