US Space Force Has Detected Unknown Object In Orbit Near China's Shijian-21 Spacecraft
WASHINGTON - The United States Space Force has detected a mysterious and unknown object orbiting near China's Shijian-21 which is suspected to be a 'satellite crusher' and is paralleling Shijian-21's movements.
While it is not clear what the object orbiting the Shijian-21 is, there is speculation that it could be an AKM, or an apogee kick motor or a 'Mini-Me' version of the Shijian-21 satellite.
The Shijian-21 robotic satellite that was sent into space on March 23rd on top of a rocket booster from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center is said to be "tasked with demonstrating technologies to alleviate and neutralize space debris" by the state run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
On November 3rd, the 18th Space Control Squadron (SPCS) of the United States Space Force discovered a new object orbiting alongside the Shijian-21 which had an international designator of 2021-094C.
Although the unknown object is noted as a rocket body, or more specifically as an apogee kick motor which is used in satellite launches to perform its final maneuver after satellite separation, both the Shijian-21 and the SJ-21 AKM are in geostationary orbit with one another.
Although China claims the satellite will only be used for eliminating space debris, it clearly can be used by the Chinese military to take out American satellites.
The Shijian-21 satellite has a robotic arm that is not only capable of pulling in debris, but also capable of maneuvering close to orbiting satellites, grapple onto them and then crush them, rendering them inoperable.
Air Force General James Dickinson from the U.S. Space Command said, "One notable object is the Shijian-17, a Chinese satellite with a robotic arm. Space-based robotic arm technology could be used in a future system for grappling other satellites".
Dickinson also told Congress in April that spacecraft like the Shijian-21 is an effort by China to seek "space superiority through space and space-attack systems".