The trio of mysterious spacecraft were idle for at least a year. Now they’re zooming toward foreign satellites again—and no one really knows why.
A trio of mysterious Russian government satellites startled space experts when, shortly after blasting into low orbit between 2013 and 2015, they began dramatically changing their orbits, demonstrating a rare degree of maneuverability for small spacecraft.
Now after being idle for a year or more, two of the mystery-sats are on the move again. On April 20, 2017, one of them reportedly shaved hundreds of meters off its orbit in order to zoom within 1,200 meters of a big chunk of a defunct Chinese weather satellite that China smashed in a controversial 2007 test of an anti-satellite rocket.
By orbital standards, that’s pretty close.
The Russian spacecrafts’ impressive maneuvers have got observers scratching their heads. No one outside of the Russian government — and probably the U.S. military — seems to know for sure what the satellites are for.
Experts say the Russian satellites could be technology-demonstrators. They might also be precursors to orbital weapons.
Either way, the nimble spacecraft are “intriguing,” Dr. Laura Grego, a space expert with the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Daily Beast.
Those who know for sure … aren’t talking. The Russian space agency didn’t respond to an email seeking comment — and has barely mentioned the mystery craft at all since late 2014. The U.S. Air Force, which tracks all the world’s satellites, issued the same boilerplate statement it released the first time the Russian satellites started moving around.
“U.S. Strategic Command’s … space component tracks Kosmos-2504 and -2499 … as well as more than 23,000 man-made, earth-orbiting objects every day,” Capt. Nicholas Mercurio, an Air Force spokesman, told The Daily Beast. (Click to Article)