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Pentagon space chief condemns ‘irresponsible’ launch of Russian inspector satellite

A Russian Soyuz rocket takes off at night, its exhaust plume glowing bright red.

A Russian Soyuz rocket launches the Kosmos 2558 military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Aug. 1, 2022.(Image credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

The Pentagon is speaking out against Russia’s launch of a spy satellite thought to be shadowing among its American counterparts closely in exactly the same orbit.

The Russian satellite, referred to as Kosmos 2558, launched on Aug. 1 and has been put into nearly exactly the same orbit as a classified American reconnaissance satellite that launched on Feb. 2. In accordance with Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek, by Aug. 2 Kosmos 2558 is mirroring the American satellite’s orbit with a difference of just 0.04 degrees (opens in new tab) and a separation of 37 miles (60 kilometers).

“That’s really irresponsible behavior,” said Gen. James H. Dickinson, Commander of U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) in a report (opens in new tab) released by NBC News. “We note that it’s in an identical orbit to 1 of our high-value assets for the U.S. government. Therefore we’ll continue like we always do, to keep to update that and track that,” Dickinson continued.

Related: Did Russia just launch a spacecraft to stalk a US spy satellite?

An NBC News camera crew was allowed in the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC (opens in new tab)) at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Based on the NBC News report, this is actually the first-time that cameras have already been allowed in the facility. JICSpOC’s mission would be to gather and integrate data from the wide selection of satellites and ground-based monitoring stations, and share that information through the entire U.S. military and intelligence community.

“We’ve some excellent space capabilities today which will reveal almost immediately if there has been a launch,” an unnamed Space Force officer says in NBC’s report.

Kosmos 2558 is rumored to become a so-called “inspector satellite” with the capacity of maneuvering near other spacecraft, relatively speaking. Other Russian satellites have already been observed in days gone by displaying exactly the same behaviors.

The mission and capabilities of the American satellite being “stalked” by Kosmos 2558 aren’t known, nonetheless it is thought to be with the capacity of collecting imagery intelligence.

This is not the very first time that america has condemned Russia’s irresponsible activities in orbit. In 2021, Russia fired a missile to destroy among its defunct satellites, abandoning thousands of bits of trackable orbital debris, a few of which prompted the International Space Station to maneuver out of harm’s way.

“Dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weapons and weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said at that time.

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Brett Tingley

Brett is really a science and technology journalist who’s interested in emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett’s work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the annals Channel, Science Discovery, and much more. Brett obtained a Bachelors degree in English from Clemson University and a Masters degree in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of NEW YORK at Charlotte. In his leisure time, Brett is really a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, a devoted LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping through the entire Appalachian Mountains along with his wife and two children.

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