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19 June


China use satellite technology to create weapons

Scientists prefer "not to talk about it in public"

Photo: SCMP

/NOVOSTIVL/ Technology from China’s decade-old scavenger satellite programme has been used in the development of new weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence, according to a recently declassified document and scientists involved in the programme. This article appeared in the South China Morning.

The small satellites, including some lighter than 10kg, can grab onto uncooperative targets such as dead spacecraft tumbling in near-Earth orbit. In military scenarios they could remain attached to debris to avoid being tracked from the ground.

Luo Jianjun, deputy director of the National Laboratory of Space Flight Dynamics Technology at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xian, Shaanxi province, confirmed the existence of China’s space scavenger programme last month.

The programme was partially declassified recently, but Luo said most details remained secret because of the technology’s potential military applications. "We prefer not to talk about it publicly," he said.

"The project has not only found applications in more than 10 satellite models … but also drones, smart weapons and robots," the document said, without elaborating.

China has launched at least 10 experimental scavenger satellites over the past decade, but it is not the only country developing the technology. The European Space Agency has launched at least two satellites to learn how to catch a piece of junk in orbit using various methods, such as casting a net. And the American military has reportedly been developing technology using drifting debris as a tactical hideout for smaller satellites in space warfare.