Friday, August 12, 2022

Russia launches satellite stalking satellite.

INTERESTING ENGINEERING: In covert space operations news, a strange Russian satellite that is apparently intended to eavesdrop on U.S. military satellites in orbit has just been launched. At its current trajectory, it should be able to close in on its target sometime on August 4th, 2022.

Before its launch, the new Russian spacecraft was rumored to be an "inspector" satellite and is thought to be specifically designed to stalk other satellites to get a closer look. The espionage satellite, which is expected to be given the name Kosmos 2558, was put into the same orbit as the USA 326 military satellite, which was launched in February.

The Russian satellite was launched at a time when the American satellite was traveling above the Russian spaceport of Plesetsk, according to Marco Langbroek, an astrodynamics lecturer at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, who followed the two satellites' orbital planes.

“The two orbits are very close, the main difference being a relatively small difference of a few tens of kilometers in orbital altitude,” Langbroek told Gizmodo in an interview. “So that is a very clear indication.”

The U.S. satellite is moving in a 97.4-degree inclined Sun-synchronous orbit, while the Russian satellite is moving in a 97.25-degree inclined orbit, explained Langbroek. The Russian satellite might also maneuver its orbit within the next few days to move even closer to its U.S. counterpart.

“If one or both of them do not maneuver in the meantime, Kosmos 2558 will pass USA 326 at a distance of approximately 75 kilometers (46 miles) on August 4th, near 14:47 UTC [10:47 a.m. ET],” Langbroek said.
Satellite stalking is not exactly something new

According to experts like Langbroek, this type of Russian satellite has already been used to stalk satellites in orbit.

“Presumably, it has some kind of sensor system that’s optimized to observe other satellites, rather than the sort of usual observing satellite that’s optimized to take pictures of the ground,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, also told Gizmodo. “We don’t know that for sure, we’re just inferring that from how it’s behaving.”


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