A STRANGE new Russian satellite has the US and NATO nervous: It’s not doing what satellites normally do, sparking fears it is really a secret “star wars” killer.
When originally launched back in May, Western observers thought the strange signal in orbit was simply some wayward debris from a normally scheduled Russian military rocket launch.
Perhaps they were supposed to.
But now, it’s shifting orbits. It’s under power, and its purpose remains unknown.
It’s now high on the NORAD — North American space defence command — watchlist for suspicious objects. They designated it 39765.
The Russians call it Kosmos 2499. NATO named it Object 2014-28E.
It’s not the first new Russian satellite to behave strangely.
In December last year, a Russian booster publicly deploying three new communications satellites was tracked secretly launching a fourth.
As with Object 2014-28E, it was initially thought to be yet another piece of potentially dangerous space junk. Then it started moving.
But the new satellite has been tracked more closely. It was seen following a peculiar, but very precise, series of course changes across the skies.
After undergoing this series of orbital shifts, it moved back to rendezvous with the launch module which carried it into space.
“Whatever it is, [Object 2014-28E] looks experimental,” think-tank Chatham House expert in space security Patricia Lewis told the Financial Times
“It could have a number of functions, some civilian and some military. One possibility is for some kind of grabber bar. Another would be kinetic pellets which shoot out at another satellite. Or possibly there could be a satellite-to-satellite cyber-attack or jamming.”
Killer satellites designed to disrupt communications and surveillance systems in near orbit have long been an international fear.
After all, the Chinese have recently tested just such a weapon several times. In one instance, the resulting debris cloud of pulverised satellite has caused long-lasting headaches for anyone in the space business.
Or it could be any number of secret experiments the Russians simply don’t want to openly talk about.
Like the US does.
Take, for example, the ultra-secretive X-37B space drone which have been quietly scooting around in space for several years.