A group of Chinese scientists has developed a device capable of putting explosives into a satellite’s exhaust nozzle, the South China Morning Post has reported.
The robotic anti-satellite weapon employs a locking capability to stay inside a probe for an extended period and place melt-cast explosives that cause time-controlled explosions.
Weighing only 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds), the high-powered explosives are packed into a bullet-shaped device nearly similar to a de Laval nozzle. When detonated, the explosion damages a probe’s internal components while allowing its overall structure to remain intact.
Since the heat of the explosion can be partly converted to kinetic energy, satellite operators could mistake the blast for an engine malfunction.
The device has already been tested at a Chinese ground facility. Researchers explained that the technology could have “practical value” in various engineering applications.
In 2007, China conducted its first anti-satellite test, destroying a defunct weather satellite with a missile. However, the test was widely criticized by other countries because of the space debris it created.
Since then, the country has shifted its focus to developing technologies that minimize debris when capturing or destroying satellites. In addition to robotic arms and nets, China has developed various ground-based weapons capable of damaging a passing satellite with a laser beam.
However, the nation’s new methods of destroying enemy satellites have become relatively easy to detect, so it began developing ways to target space probes using explosives.
US Expresses Concern
Because of China’s increasing focus on strengthening its anti-satellite capabilities, the US military has voiced its concern, particularly regarding the Shijian-17, which has allegedly conducted unusual maneuvers since 2016.
US Space Command chief General James Dickinson claims that the experimental probe could grapple other satellites with its robotic arms. He also explained that China “actively seeks space superiority” using space attack systems.