Science

Russia just launched a spacecraft to spy on an American spy satellite?

A newly launched Russian spy satellite could be tasked with spying on one of its American counterparts.

Russian satellite known as Cosmos 2558 (will open in a new tab)was rumored to have been an “inspection” ship even before it took off on Monday (August 1), Dutch satellite tracker Marco Langbroek noted in a blog post on Tuesday. (will open in a new tab) (August 2). And it is unlikely that these rumors will subside in the near future.

Langbroek noted that Kosmos 2558 was launched into the same orbital plane as USA 326, the US spy satellite that launched the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into orbit this February. The two satellites are also at close altitude and are scheduled to have a relatively close rendezvous soon, assuming neither performs any significant maneuvers over the next day or so.

Related: Declassified photos and design of US spy satellites

“In the current orbit, Cosmos 2558 will make a relatively close approach to the United States. [326] August 4 around 14:47 UTC [10:47 a.m. EDT]Langbrook wrote. — The approach distance is ~75 km. [47 miles]; almost all of this (73 km [45 miles]) is on top.

To be honest, USA 326 seems pretty interesting. According to astrophysicist and satellite tracking specialist Jonathan McDowell, a recently classified American satellite ejected something – either a sub-satellite or a fragment. (will open in a new tab)working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Cosmos 2558 became a spy satellite stalker. After all, as Langbroek noted, in early 2020, two Russian satellites maneuvered within 100 miles (160 km) of the U.S. spacecraft USA 245.

American officials were not happy with this apparent orbital inspection.

“We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” the general said. John “Jay” Raymond, head of space operations for the US Space Forces, told Time magazine. (will open in a new tab) at that time. “He can create a dangerous situation in space.”

Is Cosmos 2558 ready for the same stunts? “It will be interesting to follow both satellites [in] coming weeks to see what happens,” wrote Langbroek.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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