A team of researchers at China Aerospace Science and Technology unit China Academy of Space Technology is developing a spacecraft to bring de-orbiting satellites back to their intended trajectory.

The new spacecraft will ultimately help the satellites running out of fuel or experiencing technical issues to continue their operation for at least ten additional years.

The new service spacecraft is designed to use robotic arms to make contact with a target satellite. Afterwards, it will provide attitude control assistance and push the satellite back into its original orbit.

“If the target’s instruments remain in good condition, it will be able to continue working in the orbit for many years.”

Once it has completed its task, the spacecraft can undock with the target and then automatically fly toward the next satellite requiring help.

The research and development (R&D) for the spacecraft is expected to be completed over a two-year period.

Chief service spacecraft designer Hu Di was quoted by Chinadaily.com.cn as saying: “It will mainly be used to serve communications satellites operating in geostationary orbits about 36,000km above the ground because such satellites usually are very expensive and are important to people’s daily lives.

“If the target’s instruments remain in good condition, it will be able to continue working in the orbit for many years.”

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Around 150 communications satellites are currently operational in orbits, which could benefit from the new servicing spacecraft.

Following completion, the spacecraft is planned to be launched onboard a Long March 3B liquid-propellant carrier rocket.

Weighing more than 5t, the spacecraft would be able to operate for up to 15 years in orbit.