US Accuses Russia of Launching Satellite Capable of Attacking Other Satellites

US Accuses Russia of Launching Satellite Capable of Attacking Other Satellites

US Accuses Russia of Launching Satellite Capable of Attacking Other Satellites

By Boniface Ihiasota, USA

The United States has raised concerns over Russia’s recent launch of a satellite, which US intelligence officials believe could be a weapon capable of inspecting and attacking other satellites.

A Soyuz rocket took off from Russia’s Plesetsk launch site, approximately 800 km (500 miles) north of Moscow, on Thursday.

Excel Magazine International gathered that Russia deployed at least nine satellites into low Earth orbit, including COSMOS 2576, a type of Russian military “inspector” spacecraft.

US officials have long criticized these satellites for exhibiting reckless behavior in space.

“We have observed nominal activity and assess it is likely a counterspace weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit,” a spokesperson for US Space Command, part of the US Department of Defense, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The spokesperson added, “Russia deployed this new counterspace weapon into the same orbit as a US government satellite.”

COSMOS 2576 is similar to previously deployed counterspace payloads from 2019 and 2022, which have a history of being placed close to sensitive US spy satellites.

US intelligence agencies had anticipated the launch of COSMOS 2576 and had informed allies about their assessment of the satellite before its deployment.

The launch also included civilian satellites deployed to different orbits. “This mix of military and civilian payloads was totally unexpected. Never seen that before on a Russian launch,” said Bart Hendrickx, an analyst tracking Russia’s space program.

On Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denied the US assertions, stating that Moscow opposed the deployment of weapons in orbit.

“I don’t think we should respond to any fake news from Washington,” he told Russia’s TASS and Interfax news agencies.

Ryabkov also noted that Russia was still complying with the New START treaty’s quantitative restrictions on nuclear weapons.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized that Russia acted in full accordance with international law, advocating for a ban on the deployment of any weapons into space.

The Russian satellite launched in 2019 ejected an object into space and closely followed a satellite from the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence agency overseeing spy satellites.

As of Tuesday, COSMOS 2576 had not approached a US satellite, but space analysts noted it is in the same orbital ring as USA 314, a bus-sized NRO satellite launched in 2021.

The Russian satellite appears to be trailing USA 314’s orbital path at a faster speed, suggesting that the two will eventually come closer together, according to a review by Reuters of orbital data in Space Command’s public satellite catalog.

The satellite’s deployment comes amid US allegations that Russia is developing a space-based nuclear weapon capable of destroying entire networks of satellites.

Excel Magazine International recalls that in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow had no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in space, insisting that Russia’s space capabilities are similar to those of the US.

US officials believe Russia has launched at least one satellite, COSMOS 2553, related to its nuclear space weapon program. However, they have stated that Russia has not deployed a nuclear weapon in space.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has shrouded much of its space activities in secrecy and has threatened to attack US satellites aiding Ukrainian defense efforts, such as SpaceX’s Starlink network.

The US and Russia have been sparring in the United Nations Security Council over satellite weapons.

In 2020, Russia dismissed US and UK accusations of testing an antisatellite weapon in space as “propaganda,” insisting on its commitment to the nondiscriminatory use and peaceful study of space.

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