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It Sure Looks Like a Russian Spy Satellite Chasing a US Military Satellite

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  • On August 1, Russia launched a new spy spacecraft that is likely to track an American spy satellite.
  • The orbits of the two spacecraft remain relatively close and the Russian version can change orbit as needed.
  • The pursuit of space is nothing new, nor is it limited to the Russians.

    A new Russian satellite named Kosmos 2558 took a ride on Monday aboard a Russian Soyuz-2.1V rocket, apparently destined for life as a spy satellite. Russia launched the satellite in the same orbital plane as the United States 326, a US military satellite that launched into low-Earth orbit earlier this year – which is perhaps not a coincidence.

    Of course, the Russians aren’t advertising their intentions, and the United States hasn’t volunteered to share all the ins and outs of its own spacecraft with the public. However, experts agree that the new Russian satellite is something to know about USA 326 based on the history of this type of Russian satellite, which has chased American satellites in the past.

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    Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says, “Presumably, it has some kind of sensor system, which is optimized for observing other satellites, not the kind of satellite that normally sees the ground.” Optimized for taking pictures.” gizmodo, “We don’t know for sure, we’re just speculating on how it’s behaving.”

    Marco Langbroek, an astrodynamics lecturer at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, wrote in a blog post that the launch of the new Russian satellite was just in time for USA 326 to pass over the Russian spaceport Plesetsk.

    “The two orbits are very close,” he tells gizmodo, “The main difference is a relatively small difference of a few tens of kilometers in orbital altitude. So that’s a very clear sign.”

    Of course, this is nothing new. Back in 2020, a Russian inspector satellite named Kosmos 2542 synchronized its orbit with that of the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite USA 245. China has also sent its own inspector satellites, which the country says have been used to monitor its own equipment. in geostationary orbit.

    Loaded with an engine that allows it to maneuver in orbit, the Russian spy satellite will likely be in a position to see other satellites and then move as needed. USA 326 satellite looks worth watching. It was launched in February via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and has a classified National Security Mission mission.

    The National Reconnaissance Office shared a press release at the time stating that the launch “provides national decision-makers, combatants and intelligence analysts with a broad range of timely intelligence to protect the nation’s vital interests and support humanitarian support.” Will strengthen the ability of the NRO to undertake worldwide efforts.”

    With the US mission spelled out, yet vague, perhaps it’s no surprise that this Russian “inspector” would want to take a look at the activities of satellite USA 326.

    Tim Newcomb Tim Newcomb is a journalist based in the Pacific Northwest.

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