Chinese Satellite Grapples Another Satellite, Pulls It Out Of Orbit
SPACE - A Chinese satellite equipped with a robotic arm and suspected to be a 'satellite crusher' has been observed grappling and pulling another satellite out of its orbit and putting it into a new orbit.
This week an analytics firm stated that they had observed China’s Shijian-21 satellite, also called SJ-21 disappear for a while from its normal position in space.
The Shijian-21 satellite then made a 'large maneuver' in order to move closer to the dead BeiDou navigation system satellite, grapple onto the BeiDou satellite and then pull it out of its orbit, putting it into a new 'graveyard orbit' where it is less likely to crash into other satellites.
China had said that their purpose for the Shijian-21 satellite was to "test and verify space debris mitigation technologies" but this maneuver demonstrates its ability to potentially grapple and possibly disable satellites from other countries such as the United States.
The maneuver was spotted by chief architect for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Brian Flewelling, after which the agency provided footage of the maneuver during a webinar that was hosted by the CEnter and International Studies and Secure World Foundation.
In the video, Flewelling stated "We continue to track SJ-21 and monitor it for conjunctions with all known space objects. The ability to maintain custody of SJ-21 after this large daytime maneuver is an important and unique capability of Exo’s commercial SSA network".
The Shijian-21 robotic satellite was sent into space in October, 2021 on top of a rocket booster from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and has a robotic arm that is not only capable of pulling in debris, but also capable of pulling in and destroying other satellites..
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".
The Shijian-21 is able to maneuver close to orbiting satellites, grapple onto them and then crush them, rendering them inoperable.