Russia’s ‘Killer Satellites’ Re-Awaken

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ELIZABETH BROCKWAY/THE DAILY BEAST

 

The trio of mysterious spacecraft were idle for at least a year. Now they’re zooming toward foreign satellites again—and no one really knows why.

A trio of mysterious Russian government satellites startled space experts when, shortly after blasting into low orbit between 2013 and 2015, they began dramatically changing their orbits, demonstrating a rare degree of maneuverability for small spacecraft.

Now after being idle for a year or more, two of the mystery-sats are on the move again. On April 20, 2017, one of them reportedly shaved hundreds of meters off its orbit in order to zoom within 1,200 meters of a big chunk of a defunct Chinese weather satellite that China smashed in a controversial 2007 test of an anti-satellite rocket.

By orbital standards, that’s pretty close. Continue reading

Maneuvering Russian Satellite Has Everyone’s Attention

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WASHINGTON – A Russian military satellite launched in March has made at least 11 close approaches to the rocket upper stage that released it into orbit, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force.

Such maneuvering capability is consistent with, but not necessarily indicative of, an on-orbit anti-satellite weapon.

Air Force officials previously said they were closely watching the satellite, and independent space tracking experts and policy analysts have joined the vigil. The maneuvers started in April, and the most recent occurred in early July, experts said, adding that in at least one case the satellite appears to have nudged the upper stage to a higher orbit. Continue reading