China launches classified space debris mitigation technology satellite

HELSINKI — China launched the Shijian-21 satellite tv for pc from Xichang late Saturday with the said goal of testing house particles mitigation applied sciences.

A Lengthy March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite tv for pc Launch Heart, southwest China, at 9:27 p.m. Jap, Oct. 23, sending Shijian-21 into geosynchronous switch orbit.

The China Aerospace Science and Expertise Corp. (CASC) confirmed launch success inside an hour of launch. Chinese language state media Xinhua reported that Shijian-21 will “take a look at and confirm house particles mitigation applied sciences.”

No particulars of the satellite tv for pc or its capabilities have been made obtainable. Coupled with the truth that house particles mitigation applied sciences are “dual-use,” having each civilian and army functions, the satellite tv for pc is prone to entice curiosity and scrutiny outdoors China. 

A business case for energetic particles removing and, within the case of geostationary orbit, repairing and refueling satellites or delivering them to graveyard orbits, is being made globally. 

The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Expertise unveiled a “supplemental service spacecraft” on the Zhuhai Airshow in late September. After approaching to inside roughly two meters of a goal it might be capable to dock with and refuel a appropriate satellite tv for pc.  SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, has developed Mission Extension Autos, whereas DARPA, the European House Company, Astroscale of Japan and others are creating refueling spacecraft.

The categorised nature and lack of transparency concerning the intentions and actors concerned within the Shijian-21 mission may spark concern, nonetheless. The identical capabilities to rendezvous with and fix to a satellite tv for pc for refueling and restore is also used to disable spacecraft of adversaries.

Shijian (“follow”) satellites are broadly expertise demonstration satellites. Shijian-17, launched by the primary Lengthy March 5 heavy-lift rocket in 2016, is an experimental satellite tv for pc for communication and broadcast providers. It additionally carried out rendezvous and proximity operations in geostationary orbit.

The Safe World Basis has tracked Chinese language and different house actors’ rendezvous and proximity operations. It notes that Shijian-17 has demonstrated maneuverability across the geostationary belt, circumnavigated Zhongxing-5A (ChinaSat-5A) and made later approaches to Zhongxing-6B and Shijian-20, which launched in December 2019.

The Saturday launch of the Lengthy March 3B signifies that the launcher was not the reason for a problem affecting the Sept. 27 launch of Shiyan-10, one other categorised spacecraft. The satellite tv for pc was apparently unresponsive when it comes to propulsion for greater than two weeks earlier than a sequence of burns raised its perigee by lots of of kilometers every time and indicated to the skin world that Shiyan-10 was energetic.

Shiyan-10 continues to change its orbit and has raised its perigee to 1,100 kilometers, in accordance information from the U.S. House Drive’s 18th House Management Squadron (SPCS). The satellite tv for pc is known to have been concentrating on a geosynchronous orbit, with a present apogee of 40,100 km. Neither CASC nor state media have supplied an replace on the well being or state of affairs of the Shiyan-10 satellite tv for pc.

The Lengthy March 3B was slated for a busy finish to 2021, and seems match to proceed its position as a workhorse amongst China’s Lengthy March rockets.

The launch was CASC’s thirty sixth launch of the 12 months and thirty ninth total for China, together with launches from state-owned spinoff Expace and personal agency iSpace. China’s subsequent launch will set a nationwide report for orbital launches in a calendar 12 months, surpassing the 39 set in 2018 and matched in 2020.

CASC is concentrating on greater than 40 launches earlier than the top of the 12 months. Non-public agency Galactic Power are quickly anticipated to conduct their second launch, whereas Expace’s efforts to launch a second Kuaizhou-1A report this 12 months have been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak.

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