BEIJING — China is developing a space vehicle to help transport orbiting satellites that have run out of fuel, Science and Technology Daily reported on July 19.
Fuel is a key factor limiting the life of satellites. Most satellites function for years after entering orbit, but eventually, they have to end their missions and burn up into the atmosphere due to fuel exhaustion.
The vehicle is being developed by an academy affiliated to the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. The carrier, instead of refueling the satellite, will use a robotic arm to dock with it, and will then carry the satellite to maintain its original orbit.
Hu Di, the chief designer of the vehicle, said compared with foreign research that focuses on refueling satellites that have run out of fuel, their option is much simpler and efficient.
The vehicle will take about two years to complete.
On June 19 last year, China’s communications satellite Zhongxing-9A failed to enter the preset orbit after launch. The satellite then took two weeks to conduct ten orbit adjustments to reach its correct orbit, resulting in large fuel consumption and a shortened working life.
Hu’s team has listed Zhongxing-9A as a potential satellite on which to apply the new technology.