A Chinese satellite ‘tows’ another to a ‘space graveyard’

The Shijian-21 satellite pushed another satellite, already useless, into a graveyard orbit, from where it can re-enter Earth and disintegrate.


A Chinese satellite  has towed a damaged satellite into a “graveyard” orbit.

The Shijian-21 satellite “towed” the Beidou-2 G, which has been failing since its launch in 2009, into an orbit from where it will not interrupt the work of other useful spacecraft and from where it can re-enter the planet to die out in space. atmosphere.

The Shijian-21 was launched from Xichang, China, last October on a Long March 3B rocket. It was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology (SAST) in order to test and verify space debris mitigation technologies.

To fear?

The Chinese satellite maneuvers are consistent with the capabilities needed to carry out On-Orbit Service, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM), capabilities that the US and Europe are also seeking.

Beijing has a national goal of developing OSAM capabilities, according to a December 13, 2021 study by the China Institute for Aerospace Studies.

“An investigation into China ‘s stated OSAM goals and activities helps contextualize SJ-21 as a satellite to test more on-orbit debris mitigation technologies. In-orbit services to mitigate debris come in many forms, such as refueling or relocation, and could eventually support a variety of clients, including the Chinese military, government, and emerging commercial players, which would be consistent. with OSAM activities globally,” author Kristin Burke wrote.

The Americans, however, believe that if the Shijian-21 has the ability to grab a dead satellite and pull it out of its orbit, nothing prevents it from doing the same with an operational one.