Some analysts and satellite watchers have reported that Russian spacecraft chasing a multibillion-dollar U.S. spy satellite hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface.
According to media reports in recent weeks, a Russian inspection satellite Cosmos 2542 has recently synchronized its orbit with USA 245 – a satellite the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) operates. The NRO is an agency within the Department of Defense and one of the five major U.S. intelligence agencies.
The commander of U.S. Space Command and chief of the U.S. Space Force Gen. John Raymond confirmed that recent orbital maneuvers by a Russian spacecraft are unacceptable and appeared to be threatening a U.S. national security satellite.
“Last November the Russian government launched a satellite that subsequently released a second satellite. These satellites have been actively maneuvering near a U.S. government satellite … which the Russian government characterized as ‘inspector satellites,’” U.S. General John Raymond said in a statement to CNBC.
One of the satellites, dubbed Cosmos-2542, ejected a sub-satellite, Cosmos-2543. Some analysts and satellite watchers have suggested the sub-satellite “inspector” was chasing USA 245.
CNBC also noted that the Russian spacecraft were as close as 300 kilometers from USA 245, in clear view of the U.S. satellite. Additionally, the two Russian objects were able to see multiple sides of USA 245 due to the nature of their orbits – causing satellite trackers to speculate that Cosmos 2542 and Cosmos 2543 were indeed inspecting USA 245.
The Time reported that the confrontation marks the first time the U.S. military has publicly identified a direct threat to a specific American satellite by an adversary. The incident parallels Russia’s terrestrial encounters with the U.S. and its allies, including close calls between soldiers, fighter jets and warships around the world. Observers worry that space is now offering a new theater for unintentional escalation of hostilities between the long-time adversaries.
What Russia has been doing in space “has the potential to create a dangerous situation,” said Raymond. “These activities don’t reflect the behavior of responsible space faring nations.”
Going forward, he said, “I think there needs to be a discussion on norms of behavior and on responsible behavior in space.” Space fairing nations, Raymond said. “need to have that conversation and I would encourage more dialogue.”
The relative orbit is actually pretty cleverly designed, where Cosmos 2542 can observe one side of the KH11 when both satellites first come into sunlight, and by the time they enter eclipse, it has migrated to the other side. pic.twitter.com/zaEBZJhFaO
— Michael Thompson (@M_R_Thomp) January 30, 2020