Chinese satellite suggests space warfare skills by evading US surveillance, China News

A Chinese satellite has used a maneuver to avoid being followed by a spying US satellite, suggesting its capability for potential space warfare.

But some defense analysts said the scenario was not new and that the incident should not be seen as an escalation of rivalry between China and the United States in space.

“It’s not difficult to monitor satellites,” said Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping. “The United States, Russia and China are all capable of monitoring each other’s satellites in orbit. But the United States will certainly plan its space infrastructure through monitoring China’s and Russia’s satellites.”

Such surveillance and maneuvering was not necessarily for a military purpose, he said.


In July, Shijian 20, China’s heaviest and most advanced communications satellite, was launched in parallel by a US space surveillance satellite, US 271. The Chinese satellite moved “fast” away, the US military website Breaking Defense reported on Friday.

The Chinese discovered the shadow of the U.S. satellite, the report said, citing information from the Commercial Space Operations Center (ComSpOC).

“They’re starting to do calibration maneuvers, and they’re very, very small maneuvers, so it’s hard,” said Jim Cooper, head of space situation awareness at ComSpOC. “It’s about having the right system that can process and record the little maneuvers when you’re so close.”

The ComSpOC data also showed that in 2018, when another Chinese satellite, Tongxin Jishu Shiyan 3, took its position in geosynchronous orbit, the upper stage of the rocket that supplied the satellite had been filled with extra fuel to allow for it to remain parallel to it. , to act as a lure.

Cooper believed it was a tactic to deceive an enemy’s network of space situational awareness and to gain China several days of freedom where it could “be out doing potentially threatening things” while the other country had lost track of, where the Chinese satellite was.


Monitoring and maneuvering the orbiting satellites is a necessity to avoid collisions, but the United States has long been concerned about the capabilities of Chinese satellites in potential space warfare.

China has launched several satellites that are said to be “scavengers” equipped with robotic arms to grab and control space debris so that it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

But the Pentagon is concerned that the technology “could be used in a future system to grab other satellites” and was therefore a concern for the U.S. military, James Dickinson, chief of the U.S. Space Command, told a congressional hearing in April.

A notable example, the Shijian 17, launched in 2016 with a robotic arm, had over the years made a series of “unusual maneuvers” and varied its position relative to other satellites while in geostationary orbit over Earth, according to the think tank. Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Although Chinese developers said the Shijian 17’s mission was to test “high-orbit space debris observation technologies,” Dickinson said it had the ability to potentially bring down U.S. probes in space.

Last week, Shijian 21, China’s latest model for “experimental validation of space depletion technology” was delivered to its designated runway.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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