The Kremlin says its nimble new satellites are just for communications. But they look—and act—an awful lot like prototype weapons.
On Christmas Day in 2013, a rocket blasted off from the Russian Federal Space Agency’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 500 miles north of Moscow. The 95-foot-tall, 118-ton Rokot booster—an unarmed version of a Cold War nuclear-tipped missile—lanced into low orbit, shedding spent stages as it climbed.
Seventy-five miles above the Earth’s surface, the Rokot’s nose cracked open and its payload spilled out. The rocket carried Rodnik communications satellites, according to Russian officials.
It’s customary for Rodnik sats to deploy in threes, but in a notification to the United Nations, Moscow listed four spacecraft inside the Christmas Rokot.
The discrepancy was strange…and got stranger.
“By the end of October 2014, China had launched 16 spacecraft, either domestically or via a commercial space launch provider. These spacecraft mostly expanded China’s SATCOM and ISR capabilities, while a few others tested new space technologies,” said the report detailing potential threats from China, which the US DoD released Friday.
Among the latest achievements by China the report mentions the first-ever launch of a satellite capable of sub-meter resolution imaging, the Chang’e-5 lunar mission and the completion of a new space launch facility on Hainan Island. Continue reading
Iran has built a 27-meter-long missile, capable of delivering a warhead “far beyond Europe,” and placed it on a launch pad at a site close to Tehran, an Israeli television report said Wednesday, showing what it said were the first satellite images of the missile ever seen in the West.
It stressed that the missile could be used to launch spacecraft or satellites, but also to carry warheads. Continue reading
Although not mentioned, this could very likely be related to the newly formed ‘coronal hole’ opening up on the sun.
Russia will suspend the work carrid [sic] out by US GPS stations sited within its borders if no agreement is reached to set up GLONASS ground stations in the US, said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to the press.
“We are suspending the work of these stations on Russian territory starting from June 1,” he said as reported by Interfax. Rogozin said that American stations were deployed in Russia in line with agreements signed in 1993 and 2011.
“In accordance with these agreements, eleven GPS stations are located in ten Russian regions,” he said. Continue reading
While the possibility of anti-satellite weapons, jamming and cyber-attacks aimed at the U.S. military’s fleets of communication satellites is making them vulnerable to adversaries, declining defense budgets constitute an equal threat to the space architecture the services rely upon, according to a report released July 24.
Like the Maginot Line that gave the French a false sense of security prior to the German Blitzkrieg in World War II, the U.S. military has assumed since the end of the Cold War that no one would dare launch an physical attack on its satellites because that would violate international norms. Just as the Germans did away with such niceties and invaded France through a neighboring country, an adversary could go after one of the military’s biggest Achilles’ heels, its space-based communication system, said Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and author of a new report, “The Future of Milsatcom.” Continue reading