U.S. Evaluates Russia’s Deployment of Space Weapon Near American Satellite

23rd May 2024
U.S. Evaluates Russia’s Deployment of Space Weapon Near American Satellite

The U.S. Space Command recently revealed that Russia launched what American Intelligence believes to be a satellite capable of surveilling and combatting other satellites. This announcement came as it was noted that the Russian satellite is currently shadowing a U.S. surveillance satellite in its orbit. The launch was carried out by Russia’s Soyuz rocket from the Plesetsk site, situated approximately 800 kilometers north of Moscow, on May 16. 

The mission successfully deployed at least nine satellites into low-Earth orbit, including the COSMOS 2576, identified as a Russian military “inspector” satellite. U.S. authorities have criticized such satellites for engaging in what is deemed hazardous activities in space.

USSPACECOM Identifies Possible Counterspace Weapon in Orbit

In a statement provided to Reuters, a spokesperson for USSPACECOM mentioned that their observations indicated “nominal” activity, leading them to surmise that it is probably a counterspace weapon, which could potentially target other satellites orbiting the Earth at low altitudes. According to their assessment, this presumed weapon system has been deployed on an orbit that is shared with a satellite under the U.S. government’s control. 

The statement further elaborated that COSMOS 2576 appears similar to other counterspace payloads set up in 2019 and 2022, actions that align with Russia’s historical pattern of situating its satellites in close proximity to sensitive U.S. spy satellites.

U.S. Intelligence Preemtively Assessed COSMOS 2576 Launch, Sharing Insights with Allies

According to a U.S. official who was aware of the situation, American intelligence had anticipated the launch of COSMOS 2576 and shared their satellite analysis with allied nations before its placement in orbit. The launch was notable for also sending civilian satellites into various orbits. 

Bart Hendrickx, an analyst with extensive experience monitoring Russia’s space activities, remarked on the unusual nature of the launch, noting that the combination of military and civilian payloads in a single Russian launch was “totally unexpected” and had not been observed before. 

Concerns Over Russian Satellite Maneuvers and Nuclear Capabilities Amidst Global Tensions

According to a Reuters analysis of the Space Command’s data, the Russian satellite is ostensibly trailing USA 314’s orbit but at a greater speed, hinting that a closer encounter between the two may be imminent. This event unfolds as the U.S. alleges Russia to be manufacturing a space-based nuclear weapon with the capability to obliterate entire satellite constellations.

U.S. intelligence officials have identified at least one satellite, COSMOS 2553, which they believe is part of Russia’s nuclear space weapons program. Despite these concerns, U.S. officials have clarified that Russia has yet to station a nuclear weapon in orbit.

Russia has been accused of significantly concealing its space-related activities and has issued threats against U.S. satellites supporting Ukrainian military defenses, including SpaceX’s Starlink system, which comprises thousands of internet satellites in low-Earth orbit. 

The conflict over satellite weaponry has also extended to the UN Security Council, where the U.S. and Russia have engaged in heated debates.

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