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27 Apr, 2021 12:14

China launches spacecraft capable of clearing up space debris

China launches spacecraft capable of clearing up space debris

China has launched a 30kg (66lb) prototype robot capable of catching dangerous space debris and destroying it, as well as looking deep into space and observing celestial bodies for potential space mining.

On Tuesday, a Chinese space-mining start-up saw its unmanned spacecraft launched into low orbit on China National Space Administration’s Long March 6 rocket, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. 

The NEO-01 robot, which was developed by Shenzhen-based Origin Space, can scoop up debris left by other satellites in a net before burning it with its electric propulsion system. With thousands of satellites having been launched and older ones becoming redundant, the decay and breakup of spacecraft can present a real danger to operations in space. Origin Space, if successful, will become the first Chinese commercial company to demonstrate the ability to clean up space junk. 

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Origin Space’s craft can also look deep into space to analyze small celestial bodies, potentially paving the way for more technological development in the field of space mining. The company hopes to launch more satellites capable of observing asteroids and other bodies with the intention of commencing mining by 2045, its co-founder, Su Meng, said in an interview with Chinese media earlier this month.

China intends to become a major space power by 2030, and hopes to catch up with leaders Russia and the US.

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