|Long March 4c on July 20 of the Chuangxin-3, Shiyan-7, and Shijian-15 military satellites|
The test conducted last week consisted of a maneuvering satellite that captured another satellite in space. Pentagon officials say that was a significant step forward for Beijing’s space warfare program.
The satellite capture involved one of three small satellites fitted with a mechanical arm that were launched July 20 as part of a covert anti-satellite weapons development program, said U.S. officials familiar with reports of the test.
One official described the satellite-grabbing spacecraft as a “mobile satellite launch vehicle.”
The satellites involved in the space warfare development program were identified by the Chinese as “scientific experimentation satellites,” according to a notice published July 24 in the online journal Space News.
They were identified as Chuangxin-3 (Innovation-3), Shiyan-7 (Experiment-7), and Shijian-15 (Practice-15). The spacecraft with the robotic mechanical arm that conducted the satellite capture experiment has not been authoritatively identified from among the three orbiters. However, space analysts suspect it is Shiyan-7.
The three satellites were launched atop a Long March-4C rocket on July 20 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north central China.
You can read the entire article including comments by space analyst Bob Christy, who writes the blog Zarya at http://freebeacon.com/china-testing-new-space-weapons/.
According to an article posted yesterday on SatNews (http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=1243651026), Rick Fisher, a Chinese military affairs specialist, said the robot-arm satellite that he believes is the Shiyan-7 is part of China’s dual-use space program that includes satellites for military close-surveillance and attack missions. Civilian applications include development of space manipulator arm technology.
“As an ASAT, a future version of the SY-7 could be used to take close-up images of U.S. satellites, to remove systems from those satellites and return them to China, to directly damage U.S. satellites or to plant ‘mines’ on those satellites or close nearby,” said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center. “An SY-7-like ASAT gives China the option to attack enemy satellites without creating a large cloud of debris that may also damage other Chinese satellites.” Fisher said China recently hosted a major space conference and is seeking to position itself as a space “superpower” as a means to increase cooperation and technology acquisition from other countries. At the conference, “Chinese officials made a deliberate appeal to Canada, which developed and built the manipulator arm used on the International Space Station and U.S. Space Shuttles,” Fisher said. However, Fisher said China made every effort to conceal the People’s Liberation Army’s role in the space program and would probably deny any military role in the developing mechanical arm technology for offensive space operations. “The ‘Canadarm’ [manipulator arm] was developed in Canada with Canadian funding and four were purchased by NASA for the U.S. Space Shuttle program,” he said.
China conducted a test launch of a new high-Earth orbit anti-satellite missile called the DN-2 in March, according to U.S. officials.