Home » Space » Chinese Satellite Grabs Another in Orbit

Chinese Satellite Grabs Another in Orbit

by Brendan McGarry on October 3, 2013

Long March-4C

A Chinese satellite used a robotic arm to capture another in space as part of a covert weapons program, according to a news report.

The maneuver took place last week and involved one of three small satellites launched in July, according to an article by Bill Gertz, a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, an online investigative news organization.

The U.S. Defense Department has been monitoring the movement of the Chinese satellites, according to Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman at the Pentagon, according to the report. U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Combatant Command for Space has observed the relative motions of the objects, she told the reporter.

The experimental satellites were identified as Chuangxin-3, which is translated as Innovation-3; Shiyan-7, or Experiment-7, the one believed to have the mechanical arm; and Shijian-15, or Practice-15, according to the article. They were launched in a Long March-4C rocket on July 20 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China, according to the report.

U.S. military and intelligence officials are increasingly concerned over China’s so-called anti-satellite systems.

In 2007, China fired a missile into space and destroyed a weather satellite. The incident “was a seminal event in world attention” and created some 3,000 pieces of orbital debris, according to the Defense Department’s 2011 space strategy.

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{ 102 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance October 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm

If this was1960 id be shocked but its 2013 who cares. We know they can launch satellites.


Dfens October 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

You are supposed to be shocked. How can it possibly be that some country other than ours can launch satellites and make them do whatever they want them to do? We're the only ones who are supposed to be able to do that — forever. If China isn't careful, they will disturb our status quo where our military serves as a conduit to supply money to our defense contractors instead of keeping this nation safe.


Tim Ho October 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm

You might care if their robotic arm puts the snatch and grab on the GPS emitting satellites that direct your Garmin … or if our military suddenly becomes 'blind' as all the see where all the troops are peering through the dust of war electronics fails. Geesh


A-kill October 10, 2013 at 6:21 am
Space Vacuum October 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Cool. If the Chinese were smart….. They would introduce a motion at the UN requiring all nations that have launched objects in space to pay into an international clean up fund based on how much junk you have up there. They would then commercialize this system and use it to collect all the space junk floating around up there. The benefit is they would get other nations to help fund this technology and they would perfect it's ability to track down and capture the junk in an automated format. And they could use of all the research/experience from this "commercial adventure" to use in a militarized hunter/tracker system…….Of course the US could do the same thing but they are to busy bickering and throwing temper tantrums in the Congress/Senate over the shutdown to even consider it. …..


gar October 4, 2013 at 11:57 am

Actually, you are right on. They are business savvy and not any different then us. They just manage things differently. They have no serious history of international offensive military activity, defensive/offense yes, Korea. They have no serious history of taking territory and possessing it, except what they perceive as being historically theirs for thousands of years. Unlike us, they have thousands of years of civil wars, not just one. Unlike us, their traditional culture was colonized by Europeans, including us. Their culture suffered serious damage by Europeans purposefully inserting opium into their society for Tea profits. I personally opine that they are defensive in nature and some of the World's best business people. They love to make tons of cash and gamble it.


junk October 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm

They might as well first clean up the junk of their irresponsible satellite kill-test before going commercial…


peters October 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Why should they? We've never cleaned up ours, which are tons more than theirs.


Citizen of the world October 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm
terry7170 October 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm

It's one thing to think like that but it's completely insane to publicize it. Too much loose talk from the very people that should know better.


A-kill October 10, 2013 at 6:26 am
A-kill October 10, 2013 at 6:27 am
A-kill October 10, 2013 at 6:29 am
dan October 24, 2013 at 7:07 am

I think were all in for it. Everyone wants a piece of us and freedom in democracy is a upstream battle it seems so, it might be time to say America Wake Up, but they wont, too many stuck with a gleeming retirement plan theyre worried about or a i pad shuved in a baby bottle theyre sucking on.


blight_ October 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Dare I ask if the spaceplane was intended to do this kind of thing?


Ben October 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I still say it's a space bomber, among other things ;)


Peril October 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm

You’ve got to admire their work ethic; they’re really going for it. Right now, the US government couldn’t organise a p*** up in a brewery


Musson October 4, 2013 at 8:24 am

I bet their Space Agency's primary focus is not outreach to the Moslem world.


Dfens October 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I'll bet the purpose of their military isn't to funnel as much money as possible to several huge, well connected defense contractor corporations too.


Charles P, October 11, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Actually, the Chinese defense establishment is highly corrupt. Carry on with your ill informed huffing and puffing though. Very impressive.


Derek October 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm

To: Peril
Hit the "submit Comment" button ONCE!


Bernard October 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

On cell phones it gives errors making you think it didn't post when it did. This forum needs to be fixed. I'd lend a hand in that for a very reasonable fee.


femtobeam October 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm

So…what is the projected timeframe for this Chinese anti-satellite system to destroy all Earth orbiting satellite systems? Clearly, with the combination of debris, satellites armed with robotics, and lasers which shoot them down, and the high costs and long development times, fiber optics and quick launch small satellites like Google's Loon Balloons will be the only cheap and quick alternative for communications systems hybrids. From a military perspective, this poses a real danger to theater blackouts.

At what point does fiber sniffing intrusions, theft of critical and classified weapons designs, and now destruction of satellite systems…become an act of war?


Rest Pal October 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Don't buy into the propaganda designed to induce more wasteful funding at taxpayers' expense.

It's just a satellite used for doing repairs. In the long run, China and other peaceful countries do need to develop defensive mechanisms in space to counter terrorist actions from rogue states that constantly wage wars, arm rebels, instigate conflicts, spy on foreign leaders, and engage in unilateral actions against international law – such as trying to invade Syria or Iran.


shoot ur load October 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

it wasn't destruction of OUR satellite. It was one of their own…. not much we can say about that as we (USA) and Russia have both conducted (long ago) anti satellite missile tests that also contributed greatly to space debris.


Rest Pal October 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm

America is a country where the people want the right to vote and don't have the brains to vote, and where politicians want the power to govern and don't have the brains to govern.

Perhaps America would be better off as a colony of QE2 without any voting rights. (after paying off ALL of its debts to creditors, with land if necessary)


Stephen N Russell October 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Scary, next make move on US sats IE GPS arrays, Intel sats, Commsats & were in trouble BIG time.


blight_ October 3, 2013 at 10:08 pm

And do what? Take it back to earth? China already has the Beidou up and running.

Unless you propose that the PRC is going to deliberately pull satellites out of orbit…which is possible. Don't know if the US is ready to defend its satellites and fight off enemy satellites. We do have ASAT missiles…I guess we will have to defend our satellite constellations from the ground.


space vacuum October 4, 2013 at 12:39 am

All it would need to do is attach a few pounds of explosives to each military satellite with remote triggering. Push one big red mushroom button, all the satellites go dead. On the other hand if they just attached a small thruster rocket to each satellite, they could fire it off causing the satellite to start oscillating just enough to make un-usable. If they can make the satellite out of stealth material, it could go anywhere in space without being seen….


Musson October 4, 2013 at 8:26 am

With recent advancements in laser power – I think you could sit her on the ground and blind most satellites at the speed of light.


blight_ October 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

That would be true of imaging satellites (Keyhole, Corona, KH-replacements, DSP satellites), but if you wanted to take down GPS or SAR satellites…

Docsenko October 4, 2013 at 12:16 am

Navy has proven it can be done by a fightern with the right missile. With all the junk up there it is amazing we have any left.


mi1400 October 4, 2013 at 12:31 am

If it was 60s i would have been amazed seen americans landing on runway soming from space… hell who care their thudding idown in ocean even 2013.


Speedy October 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

One arm, one satelite (So far).
Hundreds of thousands of bits of junk up there floating around…

If they get two, If they equip them with Ping pong padles (National sport tie in), they could have the best game of Pong EVER!!!!


Rest Pal October 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

and charge the US a few million bucks for each piece cleaned up.


Dfens October 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

It's a good thing we got rid of the SR-71so we could rely on the "cheaper" satellites and that piece of crap cash cow for Lockheed Martin the shoot down prone U-2. Get rid of an airplane that's never been shot down so you can continue to operate vehicles that are easy to shoot down. Brilliant.


Thomas R. October 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

Food for thought. No one thought to add mechanical security measures to launched satellites. after all who would gain access to it in space? Could be an opportunity for China to reprogram or even place intelligence gathering components to satellites. Much cheaper than building their own, I would think.


hibeam October 4, 2013 at 9:15 am

Chinese Satellite Grabs Another in Orbit. I assume they grabbed one of ours? So they can copy it?


Rest Pal October 4, 2013 at 12:27 pm

old designs, probably not worth copying.

better to grab them for use as collateral against the trillions of dollars the US owed China.


teddybear October 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm

You can grab all of US satellite and they still aren't worth a dent to the trillions owed to China.


Rest Pal October 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Oh it's not just the satellites, but the various important services that require those satellites. Their value might still be insignificant compared to the colossal debt, but it's better than nothing.


USAF October 4, 2013 at 9:51 am
USAF October 4, 2013 at 9:52 am
USAF October 4, 2013 at 9:52 am

These can be used for several missions .
First to retrieve and repair satellites ala shuttle.
Second to destroy our satellites since our network centric system is very dependant on them.
Third Espionage , we not able to protect our satellites once in orbit . Space has been much like the idea of freedom of the seas, you were safe. In space its also thought your satellites are safe.
Fourth the chinese know with all the space debris up there if you just nudge one off course you can cause a chain reaction destroying several satellites without directly being responsible.


anthony October 4, 2013 at 9:54 am

As long as they dont get in my airspace from home and land,there should be new laws for satelites.Like dont laer each other or so.But keep them little flying critters out of my property,airspace then I mean mainlly..


anthony October 4, 2013 at 10:03 am

When such chopper allways two, fly around they disturb my radio as TV what can a vet do?Am I alloud to use them as skeet I think I have every right!!??


TheDude October 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm



guest October 10, 2013 at 12:01 am

would you mind translating anthony's message into understandable English?


nixfu October 4, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I saw this movie "You Only Live Twice" (Sean Connery).


Vok October 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm

US gov intentionally leaks such info to make a point to chicom: We have the best god damned space situation and you can't hide a thing from us, even way up from the deep space. That message by itself carries deterrence value.


Cpn. Obvious October 5, 2013 at 11:20 am



Guest October 8, 2013 at 8:17 pm

How did the US fare in a real war with the Chinese in Vietnam and Korea? Are you trying to make a point that you are uninformed? Hope this carry some deterrence value for further uninformed posts from you.


Charles P, October 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Wow. You got 5 thumbs down for being correct. Tells you something.


007 October 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Didn't Bond take care if this in "You only Live Twice"?


hibeam October 5, 2013 at 10:18 am

I thought we agreed not to arm satellites?


teddybear October 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Well, it's the US government therefore it almost always means the opposite.


Rest Pal October 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

yep, got to give these lying scums a big thumbs up for their consistency in treachery and hypocrisy.


Thomas L. Nielsen October 7, 2013 at 2:35 am

Yes, but that was "arm" in that sense of "equip with weapons". Not "arm" as in "robotic arm", which is what the Chinese satellite had [sorry, I just had to make that joke].

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


westwood October 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm

They are saying it is the same thing. An arm on satellite is a form of arms. Hmmm, this is more confusing?


Thomas L. Nielsen October 8, 2013 at 2:46 am

Totally OT, but the old WW1 method of starting an aircraft engine (pilot switches on ignition, mechanic turns prop by hand) has been called a "Hemingway Starter" – If the mechanic is too slow when the engine catches, it's [drumroll] "Farewell to Arms".

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


Mystick October 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm

We got rid of our DOD satellite capture system…. it had an arm and everything, too. It was called the Space Shuttle. We proved our ability to rendezvous in orbit and do things as far back as Gemini. The Chinese, having a nascent space program, have to go through these steps, as well.

Our initial steps were every bit as military/strategically oriented as those of the Chinese now:

Bombs: Suborbitally moving an object from point A to point B on the Earth(Nazi's 1st).
Bombing Platform: Inserting an object into orbit(Soviets 1st)
Defense: Intercepting the trajectory(Direct-ascent and course correction) of an orbital object(Vostok 3/4, Gemini)

…on and on.


hibeam October 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm

The space shuttle was a piece of junk. It was supposed to be reusable. It was reusable the way a firecracker is reusable.


Dfens October 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hell, the shuttle cost more to "reuse" than the Saturn V cost to use once and dump in the ocean. Should be no surprise since the Saturn V was designed by a guy who designed rockets his whole life, and the shuttle was designed by committee. It was successful at one thing, though. It successfully kept our manned space program from going any farther than low earth orbit for 30 years.


peters October 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Saturn V cost less because its actual payload was less. I know I know it's supposed to be the legendary manned moon-landing rocket. But all the available circumstantial evidence is all but conclusive for the knowledgeable folks in the field; it is simply irreconcilable with the official claims.

Like many witnesses, the blueprints of Saturn V had had to disappear. Lost forever.


Rest Pal October 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

That, plus the effect of inflation, lack of cost control measures (and incentives), incompetent R&D planning, and the need to actually solve a wide range of real engineering problems (they couldn't fake it like they had with the Apollos anymore because many countries had developed effective monitoring equipment).

If Saturn V's alleged lifting power had been true, they wouldn't have needed the ultra-expensive Space Shuttles in the first place.

Design October 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm
mayra veronica vs vida guerra October 6, 2013 at 2:41 am
valbonne October 7, 2013 at 4:54 am

Is the American Defense Dept. talking about their own Space Shuttle grabbed other country's satellites previously or just demonize China first before China attempt to do it in the future?

Unusual isn't it because China do not have Space Shuttle.


Rob October 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

FYI, the US has done this before (DARPA's Orbital Express). Personally the US system is far more advanced as it can also service the satellite.


Ant A. October 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I think some of you are overreacting. The US does not let us know what they have in the pipeline till years down the road. For ex. Enemy of the State-the movie,came out in 98 and most people thought it was sciece fiction. Now people are learning that those things were actually in play at that time. Military technology is the same-what we hear about as new today has been in developement for years. The Chinese and Russians know this so they leak their own propaganda to make the masses think they have caught up.


Rest Pal October 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Ant A, the next big thing in the pipeline is the Unth(s)inkable Police State. By the time you become aware of it, it would be too late to do anything about it, as universal surveillance capability currently being developed and implemented will be used to crush any attempt at organizing anti-government activities.

The neo-slave state isn't that far off. In a way, many Americans have already become "thought-slaves" or "mind-slaves". The US offers an excellent case study in how entertainment and indoctrination through private / corporate-owned media can be so devastatingly effective by subduing the vigilance of the masses, if not the capability for vigilance.


ABDELKADER HAMDAOUI October 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

Lawyers or potential lawyers should take up Space Law instead of ambulance chasing. There are lots of legal work to be done acting for insurance companies over Space traffic accidents, and space routes just like sea routes. It is a step up from Maritime Law.


small business advertising October 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm
Jimmy Bond October 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm

This is a very serious matter…"He who controls the satellites, controls the Planet Earth." If an unfriendly can put the military GPS orbiting satellites out of commission, then the entirely military of that country would be rendered scrap metal….Think what would happen if the Verizon, Straight Talk, AT& T, etc. personnel cell phone satellites were to stop operating for a 10 day period…..we'd be back to monkees in the trees….@ spasabiops we have already designed an even better way of messin' wit the sats!!! for sale @ 1.6 Billion U.S. dollars….


blight_ October 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm

You're only worried about GPS, but there are communication satellites as well.

Smart bombs will go back to using laser- and INS-guidance. Nukes have always used starfinders, not sure if they ever got GPS-guidance.


Camille October 17, 2013 at 5:10 am
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Mr Tomy October 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm

China's intention to steal technology, the development is aimed at the acquisition of high-tech satellite and then bring manufacturing … This Chinese boy really evil, to destroy all of its satellite guys, my only …


Olivier November 8, 2013 at 11:39 am

So, they grab a satellite and then they do what with it ?


Chet November 17, 2013 at 1:35 am
roland November 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Satellites grabbing satellites? Probably it's a good idea to place self destruct satellite in space if they grab ours.


roland November 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Or probably arm our satellite with auto laser firing mechanism if it notice it was a chinese satellite that was grabbing ours.


Roland December 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Probably we (US) should do the same thing.


Roland December 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm

like Grab the grabber in space. Checkmate


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