Did China Succeed in Capturing One of Its Own Satellites? – UPDATE

Did China Succeed in Capturing One of Its Own Satellites? – UPDATE

UPDATE, October 26, 2013 EDT:   Christy posted today that new data issued by SpaceTrack show Payload A and its subsatellite either very close or in identical orbits, but “whether capture occurred is still open to confirmation.”

ORIGINAL STORY, October 25, 2013 EDT: A Chinese satellite may have captured another Chinese space object tonight using a remote manipulator system according to analysis by Bob Christy of Zarya.info.

Christy has been tracking the activities of a trio of Chinese satellites launched in July using data from Air Force Space Command (AFSC) through its SpaceTrack website.  China announced the names of the three satellites — Shiyan-7 (SY-7 or Experiment 7), Chuangxin-3 (CX-3), and Shijian-7 (SJ-7 or Practice-7) — but AFSC continues to refer to them only as Payload A, Payload B and Payload C.   Which object corresponds to which name remains unclear.

Christy and other analysts were interested in the maneuvers of Payload C in August, then thought to be SY-7.  Now it is “Payload A” that is capturing attention and it may be SY-7 instead.   China had indicated that SY-7 would be testing a robotic manipulator system.

Over the past several days, a sub-satellite apparently detached from Payload A and the two have been flying in formation with each other, sometimes matching orbits, sometimes varying the distance between them.  Tonight (October 25 EDT), Christy reports that SpaceTrack has issued identical orbital elements for the two objects “suggesting that Space Command believed the two were joined together.  China may have achieved success with its space manipulator system.”

SpacePolicyOnline.com will provide more details as they become available.



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