In an article this morning in Extreme Tech, Ryan Whitman reported that a Russian satellite, which had previously crossed paths with an U.S. spy satellite, on its last near pass altered its orbit to slide directly in behind, about 180 miles out in a trailing orbit.
Whitman reports, “Before the last few weeks of January, Kosmos 2542 and a US satellite known as USA 245 were on similar orbital planes, but they only crossed paths once every 11 or 12 days. Instead of drifting apart as usual, Kosmos 2542 executed a series of maneuvers that brought it in sync with the US satellite. Purdue University graduate student Michael Thompson spotted the maneuvers and posted details on Twitter. According to Thompson, Kosmos 2542 fired its thrusters on January 20, 21, and 22 to take up a position just 186 miles away from USA 245.”
The Russians say it is completely harmless. Really? Using its finite supply of orbital thruster fuel to tag after a U.S. Spy satellite. Just a coincidence, comrades. Relax.
They claim that the Russian satellite is testing a satellite inspection system, deploying a smaller craft to inspect the condition of satellites in orbit. Of course, this could also inspect a U.S. satellite to determine the type of cameras and lens aboard, eavesdrop on radio and data transmission and determine what the spy satellite was photographing based on is position when it became more active.
Theoretically, such technologies could destroy or snatch other satellites to examine its technology more closely. No current laws prohibit such actions.
Richard A. Lee is the author of the technothriller “HIGH GROUND”