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.