Classified Chinese Satellite Launch Aims at Testing Space Debris Removal Tech

3rd Nov 2021
Classified Chinese Satellite Launch Aims at Testing Space Debris Removal Tech

The latest Chinese satellite launch occurred on 23rd October as the Long March 3B rocket deployed a classified Shijian-21 space debris removal spacecraft to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The launch took place from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and was a confirmed success. However, the classified nature of the event causes some public concern – even despite the necessity of space debris removal.

Shijian-21 Chinese satellite launch details and public concerns

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) has already confirmed the Shijian-21 launch success but refused to reveal any details except the fact that this satellite is supposed to test and verify space debris removal technologies. At the same time, it did not share any details on the Shijian-21 technical capabilities.

While space debris removal is a pressing concern that needs to be addressed soon, all space debris removal technologies have dual – civilian and military – use. So, the secrecy behind the latest Chinese satellite launch causes some concern. Namely, space debris removal satellites are also used to refuel operational spacecraft. The device can dock with another spacecraft to refuel or de-orbit it. This, in turn, means that any tech of the kind can also be used to disable currently operational spacecraft.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp Future Launches

CASC plans to carry out over 40 launches before the end of the year, which makes the Long March rocket series one of the most flown spacecraft worldwide. China is, indeed, a record holder in the number of launches, with 39 liftoffs in 2018 and 2020. The latest Chinese satellite launch, supposedly aimed at testing space debris removal tech, is already the 39th event in 2021, which means that CASC has all the chances of breaking its record this year.

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