China tests space junk removal robot in geosynchronous orbit

China has apparently used a space junk removal robot to tug a defunct Chinese satellite out of geosynchronous orbit, thus opening that slot for future satellites.

Ground tracking by ExoAnalytic Solutions found that the robot, dubbed SJ-21, apparently docked with the defunct satellite on January 22nd. Since then:

In an email to Breaking Defense this afternoon, Flewelling [of ExoAnalytic] said the latest tracking data gathered earlier today from ExoAnalytic’s telescopes show the SJ-21 separating from the Compass G2, leaving the latter in the eccentric “super-graveyard drift orbit.” SJ-21 now has moved back to a near-GEO orbit.

The orbit places the defunct satellite in an orbit above the geosynchronous orbit satellites use, but in an orbit that is not typical.

This work is comparable to what the Japanese/American company Astroscale is presently testing in low Earth orbit, though it appears far more sophisticated. In fact, based on what SJ-21 has done so far, it appears China is far ahead of everyone else in developing in-orbit robotic servicing capabilities.