A Chinese Satellite Just Grappled Another and Pulled It Out of Orbit
The article at War Zone makes the potential military threat clear. A grappling satellite can grab and move anyones satellite. Imagine key communication or datalink satellites being whisked away for an enemy’s purpose. The geosynchronous orbit is distant territory and they did the test at that distance. Lower orbits are even easier to deploy to. And of course, we have our own secretive space plane that looks like a mini-shuttle deployed for years already. Anti-satellite weapons for quite some time too.
If one thinks about benign uses for this capacity you realize they abound. Imagine a robotic grapple for a refuel or move to a better orbit. Or move a dead one from a hazardous orbit into a predictable splashdown or atmosphere burn.
Pretty much all the advanced aerospace and nuclear sciences and applied engineering is “dual purpose”. For building or for destroying. If you can orbit a satellite, you can make an ICBM. If you can make nuclear reactors you can either power a city or make weapons-grade isotopes. Maybe both at the same time. If you want advanced medical scanning you need a reactor or two for the raw radiation sources.
These technologies are spreading to smaller and smaller countries. Way back when space was the exclusive province of two superpowers. Not anymore, and probably never again.