SJ-17 / Chinasat 5A

From November 12 to December 28, 2016, Chinese satellite Shijian 17 (SJ-17) approached an active Chinese communications satellite, Chinasat 5A, for rendezvous and subsequent proximity operations. The two satellites got as close as 10 km before SJ-17 initiated a westward drift towards Chinasat 6A.

Object Name Country Operator
China China Satellite Communication Corp. (China Satcom)
China N/A

Launched as a designated experimental satellite on November 3, 2016, Shijian 17 (SJ-17) got right to work moving around the GEO belt. Chinese media reported that SJ-17 would have chemical propulsion and on-board surveillance sensors to perform technology demonstrations, which signaled that the satellite would maneuver after its arrival in GEO. According to data from AGI, SJ-17 began maneuvers on November 10 to lower its orbital altitude, and continued on November 11 to fully stabilize its position in the GEO belt. Only nine days after its launch date, on November 12, SJ-17 rendezvoused with Chinasat 5A, a Chinese commercial communication satellite launched in 1998.

Subsequently, from November 13 to December 28, SJ-16 performed proximity operations with Chinasat 5A at a distance ranging from 50 to 100 kSubsequently, from November 13 to December 28, SJ-17 performed proximity operations with Chinasat 5A at a distance ranging from 10 to 50 km, though it did get as close as 10 km on November 20, 2016. According to other sources, it may have been as close as 4 km on November 30th. SJ-17 then began to drift away on December 29, and relocated next to another Chinese satellite, Chinasat 6A, about 6 months later in June 2017. 

Since it arrived in the GEO belt in 2016, SJ-17 has moved to park next to or interact with several other satellites, the majority of which were also Chinese. Learn more about SJ-17’s behavior here.