Chinese Space Debris Clean-up or Something Else?

Source/Credit: Chinese Shijian-21satellite from Asia Times. reported the success of a Chinese mission to retrieve a dead satellite, a hopeful sign given the increasing number of satellites and related debris in orbit. The story, “A Chinese space tug just grappled a dead satellite,” discusses how the Chinese spacecraft, Shijian-21, retrieved a dead navigation satellite belonging to the Chinese CompassG2 network. The story also included a video from ExoAnalytic Solutions demonstrating the retrieval and eventual release of the CompassG2 satellite into a graveyard orbit.

Of course, every pro comes with a con. Is this just a maintenance spacecraft or could it be part of a future offensive strategy to take other non-Chinese satellites out of orbit? The media in India were skeptical, as you can see from this headline: “China Preparing for War in Space?” Not that China is alone should it be looking for an anti-satellite spacecraft. Other countries, including the US, have similar dual-use spacecraft.

According to the article, the Chinese have been silent, so the whole operation is somewhat opaque. Given the various attempts by other nations to solve the debris problem, it benefits each nation to share information on debris mitigation efforts so everyone can learn from them. Greater transparency from China would be nice.