Report: China Has Developed an Operational Space Tug

Breaking Defense has an interesting report about China developing satellite servicing capabilities:

China’s SJ-21 satellite now “appears to be functioning as a space tug,” pulling a dead CompassG2, or Beidou, navigation satellite out of the way of other satellites operating in the heavily populated Geosynchronous Orbit, according to a new analysis by commercial space monitoring firm ExoAnalytic Solutions.

The observations were reported today by Brien Flewelling, who serves as the firm’s chief architect for space situational awareness (SSA), during a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Secure World Foundation (SWF).

According to Flewelling’s video presentation, the SJ-21 on Jan. 22 went “missing” from its orbital slot for a few hours, after performing what are known as “close proximity operations,” moving closer and closer around the Compass G2. The “gap” in observations was caused by the fact that when it then docked with the defunct satellite, it was daytime — when telescopes cannot image. ExoAnalytics tracked it down after it had subsequently performed “a large maneuver” pulling the dead satellite out of GEO.

Report Recommends U.S. Bolster Satellite Defenses

Destroying an anti-satellite warhead as the targeted spacecraft maneuvers out of the field of fire. (Credit: CSIS)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new report recommends the Pentagon significantly bolster the defense of vulnerable satellites in the face of the increased weaponization of space by Russia, China, India and other nations.

“Non-kinetic active defenses, such as onboard jamming and lasing systems, are needed to thwart kinetic attacks against high-value satellites. A physical seizure capability should also be explored that could double as an inspector and on-orbit servicing satellite,” the report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recommended.

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China Using Space to Further Geopolitical Goals

Completing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is using its space program to achieve the nation’s geopolitical and economic goals. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using its growing space program to achieve a range of geopolitical and economic goals, including attracting partners for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), improving economic and political ties with other countries, and deepening others’ reliance on its space systems and data services.

“Beijing views its space program as key to elevating its leadership profile in international space cooperation, including through BRI, and establishing a dominant position in the commercial space industry,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress.

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China’s Ambitious Plans to Dominate Cislunar Space

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s plans to achieve a commanding position in cislunar space. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is determined to establish a commanding position in cislunar space, seeing it as a strategic location from which to dominate the final frontier.

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China Aims to Knock Out U.S. Space Systems in Conflict

China’s 2007 test of its ground-based ASAT missile destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in LEO. The graphic depicts the orbits of trackable debris generated by the test 1 month after the event. The white line represents the International Space Station’s orbit. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine the growing threat from China’s military space systems. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China has spent the last 15 years testing kinetic kill, directed energy, electromagnetic, cyber and other systems in an effort to develop methods for crippling American satellites during a conflict.

“China’s development of offensive space capabilities may now be outstripping the United States’ ability to defend against them, increasing the possibility that U.S. vulnerability combined with a lack of a credible deterrence posture could invite Chinese aggression,” according to a new report to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

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