It appears that the Russian space launch that took place on November 25th, could have potentially been aimed at tracking the movements of a US reconnaissance satellite, according to open source data-based reports.
According to Nico Janssen, Kosmos 2542 was launched on 2019-11-25 into a 368×857 km orbit, which is almost exactly the same orbit almost as USA 245’s orbit plane. The difference is less than 1 degree.
On December 6th, from the Kosmos 2542, the Kosmos 2543 inspector satellite was deployed, and it began raising its orbit.
This was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense, but it was reportedly an experiment of deploying the inspector satellite in outer space.
“The purpose of the experiment is to continue work on assessing the technical condition of domestic satellites,” the Defense Ministry said.
“Specific information is transmitted to ground-based processing facilities to determine the technical condition of the satellite under study,” the defense department added.
On December 9th or 10th, USA 245 changed its orbit. Before its maneuver it was in a 272×985 km orbit. It raised its orbit and Janssen lost track of it, but he suspects its in much higher orbit.
Kosmos 2543 has climbed to a 590×859 km orbit, still in the same orbit plane as USA 245. So, what is going on?
Over the past few years, satellite inspectors have remained one of the “hottest” topics wherever it comes to the militarization of space. After all, a satellite that can approach and inspect the apparatus of its country can also inspect the apparatus of another country. And, notably it can also interfere in its operation.
Until recently, inspector satellites maneuvered only with their own satellites and rocket stages. What transpired is likely one of the first instances of a chase in space.
On December 4th, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of developing the Russian orbital constellation of dual and military satellites.
Putin recalled that the leading countries of the world are actively developing modern space systems, supplementing and improving their technical characteristics, and the US leadership openly considers outer space as a theater of operations.
Russia has always consistently opposed the militarization of outer space, but the development of the situation “requires us to pay increased attention to strengthening the orbital group, as well as the space and rocket industry as a whole,” the president said.
As positive examples, he named the increased capabilities of the space echelon of the missile attack warning system and the development by industry enterprises of new satellite systems.
It is not only a question of updating the grouping with more advanced systems, but also of deploying fundamentally new spacecraft. These include the inspector satellite launched on the Soyuz-2.1v rocket on November 26 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome: it is capable of orbiting and carrying out external inspection and non-contact technical diagnostics of other satellites at the shortest possible distance. In addition, as RIA Novosti noted, inspector satellites can receive information not only from their own, but also from foreign satellites.
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