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relates to Two Witnesses Back Account Rosenstein Considered Taping Trump relates to Why `Green New Deal' Has Washington in Such a Lather: QuickTake relates to Trump Says Europe Must Take ISIS Prisoners or They’ll Be Freed relates to India Raises Import Taxes on Pakistan Goods After Terror Attack relates to Nauert Quits as UN Pick After Nanny Issue Said to Surface relates to Mahathir Says Malaysians Losing Patience Over Election Promises relates to Resource Nationalism Set to Dominate Indonesian Election Debate relates to Duterte Signs Bills to Ease Inflation, Boost Central Bank Powers relates to Australian PM to Toughen Border Protection After Vote Defeat

Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images 

politics

China’s Space Debris Cleanup May Be Cover Story, Pentagon Says

Updated on

China’s Space Debris Cleanup May Be Cover Story, Pentagon Says

  • Defense Intelligence Agency questions China’s intentions
  • About 1,800 of 21,000 big space objects are active satellites
CHINA-SCIENCE-SPACE

Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images 

China is developing sophisticated space capabilities such as “satellite inspection and repair” and debris cleanup -- “at least some of which could also function” as weapons against U.S. satellites, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The increase in what’s essentially orbiting garbage that could damage or destroy a satellite “has implications for policymakers worldwide and is encouraging the development of space debris removal technology,” the agency said Monday in an unclassified publication on threats to U.S. satellites.

But “this technology is dual-use because it could be used to damage another satellite,” it said.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the U.S. allegations were “groundless.”

“Recently the U.S. has defined outer space as a battlefield and announced the establishment of an outer space force,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a briefing in Beijing. “So this may lead to the reality of the weaponization and endangerment of outer space.”

Of about 21,000 large objects in space that are least 10 centimeters (4 inches) in size that are tracked and cataloged in Earth’s orbit, only about 1,800 are active satellites, according to the defense agency. The rest is debris, including parts of spacecraft.

More than a third of all recorded debris is from two events: China’s use of a missile in 2007 to destroy a defunct satellite and the accidental collision between a U.S. communications satellite and a defunct Russian one in 2009.

From 1998 through 2017, the International Space Station, which is in low Earth orbit, maneuvered at least 25 times to avoid potential orbital collisions, the intelligence agency said.

— With assistance by David Ramli

(Updates with Chinese comment from fourth paragraph.)