A pair of Russian satellites has been exhibiting “unusual and disturbing behavior” that could lead to a dangerous situation as they flew near a U.S. government spy satellite, the commander of U.S. Space Command said this week.
“The Russian satellites launched in 2017 exhibited characteristics of a weapon when one of those satellites released a high-speed projectile into space,” Space Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond said in a statement, according to CBS News.
“Similar activities in any other domain would be interpreted as potentially threatening behavior,” he said. “This is unusual and disturbing behavior that has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”
Raymond also criticized Russia for this behavior, saying that it does not “reflect the behavior of a responsible spacefaring nation.”
The Kremlin has previously said that the satellites in question were not space weapons but “inspector” spacecraft conducting an “experiment,” according to Time.
“The purpose of the experiment is to continue work on assessing the technical condition of domestic satellites,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in December, according to the TASS news agency.
U.S. officials have been in contact with Russia about the issue, according to Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.
“We in fact received appropriate signals from them, and we [will] give answers to these signals after they are processed internally in necessary formats,” Ryabkov told Russia’s Interfax news agency, CBS News reported.
This confrontation is the first publicly identified direct threat to an American satellite and demonstrates the need for the newly minted Space Force, according to Pentagon, White House and congressional supporters.
This is why America needs a military service dedicated to organizing, training and equipping forces to provide @US_SpaceCom to deter adversaries & defend US & Allied #space capabilities.https://t.co/0t09iFrvt2 @SpaceNews_Inc
— United States Space Force (@SpaceForceDoD) February 11, 2020
Echoing sentiments felt during the Cold War, the Space Force has shifted focus to defending satellites and mobilizing against perceived threats from other nations, such as Russia and China, according to Time.
However, there are a few people in Washington who do not feel that such measures are necessary, the report said.
“The last thing we need is more bureaucracy at the Pentagon, but that’s exactly what the Space Force is likely to give us,” William D. Hartung, the director of the Center for International Policy’s arms and security project, said.
“Creating a separate branch of the armed forces for space also risks militarizing U.S. space policy and promoting ill-advised and dangerous projects that could involve deploying weapons in space,” he said.
Michael Thompson, an amateur satellite tracker, noted Russia’s space activities in a series of tweets last week.
“The relative orbit is actually pretty cleverly designed where Cosmos 2542 can observe one side of the KH11 when both satellites first come into the sunlight, and by the time they enter eclipse, it has migrated to the other side,” he tweeted.
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
Thompson also pointed out that when the Russian satellites were launched, Russia said only Russian satellites would be inspected.
— Michael Thompson (@M_R_Thomp) February 2, 2020
“This is all circumstantial evidence, but there are a hell of a lot of circumstances that make it look like a known Russian inspection satellite is currently inspecting a known US spy satellite,” he wrote.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.