China’s recent satellite launch is sparking fears from some experts who say it can be used as a weapon capable of grabbing hold of and crushing American satellites.
The satellite named Shijian-21, after the Chinese word "practice," was propelled into space Saturday atop of Long March 3B rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, a military facility in the mountains of the mountains in Sichuan province of southwestern China, Space Flight Now reported. Its exact mission is classified, though the state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., said the satellite is "tasked with demonstrating technologies to alleviate and neutralize space debris," The Washington Times reported.
During a Senate committee hearing in April, U. S. Air Force Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the U.S. Space Command, said spacecraft like Shijian-21 are being utilized as part of the Chinese effort to seek "space superiority through space and space-attack systems." An earlier model, the Shijian-17 satellite, which was launched in 2016, also was equipped with a robotic arm that could be used to grapple other spacecraft, Dickinson testified.
"One notable object is the Shijian-17, a Chinese satellite with a robotic arm," Dickinson testified. "Space-based robotic arm technology could be used in a future system for grappling other satellites."
Though the primary function of Shijian-21 is communication and monitoring space debris, analysts say it is also capable of maneuvering to grab and crush other orbiting satellites. Dickinson previously told Congress co-orbital robotic spacecraft is part of what he described as a growing arsenal of space weaponry fielded by the Chinese military, the Times reported.
The Shijian-21 satellite was launched to geostationary orbit, or a circular orbit of about 22,236 miles above Earth's Equator, which is a frequent operating location for military and commercial communications satellites.
The satellite was launched about a week after three Chinese astronauts began their six-month mission on China’s first permanent space station. The crew’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was launched and docked with the Tianhe core m... (Read more)
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