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People's Daily Online

China launches space junk monitoring center

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 08:03, June 09, 2015

BEIJING, June 8 -- China on Monday launched a space junk monitoring center to protect its spacecraft in orbit.

The new center, to be managed by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), will track and monitor near-earth objects and space debris.

It will also be used to develop emergency response plans, take measures in case of emergencies, and share data with international counterparts.

Xu Dazhe, head of SASTIND said the center will utilize existing observatory facilities in China while taking advantage of surveillance data from both home and abroad to set up its own monitoring network for space debris.

Space debris is generally man-made litter left in space: parts of rocket launchers, inactive satellites and broken remains of past collisions.

More than 300,000 pieces of debris in space are believed to be in orbit, made up of everything from tiny screws and bolts to large parts of rockets, travelling at average speeds of 10 kilometers per second - about 40 times faster than the typical atmospheric aircraft.

At that speed, even the smallest pieces of debris can damage or destroy spacecraft and satellites.

China now has 129 spacecraft orbiting the Earth, including the Tiangong-1 space station put into orbit in 2011 for an anticipated two years.

According to Yan Jun, head of the CAS astronomical observatory, the country has registered an average of 30 incidents each year where pieces of space junk have come to a dangerously close (less than 100 meters) to Chinese spacecraft.

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