Chinese Spacecraft Reconnaissance and Approach US Satellites in Earth’s Geostationary Orbit


The Chinese spacecraft Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing-3 (TJS-3) scouted and inspected a United States (US) satellite in Earth’s geostationary orbit. Photo/Nationalinterest/ESA

FLORIDA – The Chinese spacecraft Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing-3 (TJS-3) scouted and examined the United States (US) satellites in Earth’s geostationary orbit. Orbit data reveals that TJS-3 has been approaching the US satellite in recent months.

The TJS-3 spacecraft launched in 2018 has the ability to release or release a small subsatellite, possibly to help test TJS-3’s capabilities. China calls the TJS-3 Satellite an experimental communications satellite and placed it into Earth’s geostationary orbit.

Satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) operate at an altitude of 35,786 kilometers (Km) above Earth which is very important for communications and other purposes. Satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) circle the Earth above the equator from west to east, taking 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds to circle the Earth.

The speed of the satellite is the same as the rotation of planet Earth so that it appears to be stationary at one point on the Earth’s surface. At the same time, a spacecraft maneuvering up or down on an orbit of several tens of miles will be able to drift west or east toward another satellite. This maneuver allows a satellite from time to time to pass by another satellite and observe it.

Satellite Dashboard, a web tool that compiles and analyzes space situational awareness (SSA) data, reveals that the TJS-3 satellite is approaching a US satellite. It is known that the TJS-3 satellite observed and approached to a distance of 6.2 km to the USA 233 satellite on October 31, 2022.

Quoted from the Space page, Monday (6/3/2023), the Orbital Focus Twitter account noted that the TJS-3 satellite had hovered along the geostationary belt, and paused to take a closer look at the USA 233 and USA 298 satellites. These two satellites are satellites military communications operated by the US Space Force.

Chinese Spacecraft Reconnaissance and Approach US Satellites in Earth's Geostationary Orbit

US, Russian and Chinese satellites have all reportedly been increasingly closely stalking each other’s satellites in geostationary orbit in recent years. They use a close-up approach to get images and other data.

This maneuver has led to a game where nations aim to study each other’s spacecraft and test their counterspace and SSA capabilities. Little is known about the TJS-3 satellite, but the US and other nations will surely be watching its movements closely.


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