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Outer Space Chicken
by staff writers for Launchspace
Bethesda, MD (SPX) Feb 19, 2020

"Apparently, this is not the first Russian attempt at such space-based space reconnaissance. A prior mission in 2017 included the deployment of a similar satellite that released a sub-satellite. One of the satellites released a projectile into space that may have been a test of a weapon."

A new version of the game of "chicken" is evolving in outer space. According to Gen. John Raymond, the U.S. Space Force Chief, Russian "inspector" satellites are threatening the tenuous stand-off stability between adversarial spacefaring nations. The U.S. Space Command has been tracking these satellites since launch on November 25.

They have apparently been positioned near a U.S. national security satellite. One Russian satellite is known as Cosmos-2542 which ejected a smaller, nested satellite referred to as Cosmos-2543. Analysts have suggested the mission of the sub-satellite is to inspector USA 245, a classified NRO imaging satellite.

Satellite trackers claim the Russian satellites have been actively maneuvering near USA 245. On February 10, Time Magazine reported the first public comment by a U.S. official regarding this Russian satellite activity. This announcement reflects a growing concern that other nations are turning space into a warfighting domain.

It has been reported that Cosmos-2542 made its most recent maneuver in late January. Causing the satellite to drift toward USA 245. It appears, as a result, that USA 245 initiated a maneuver a few days later in order to drift away from the unwanted visitor. Gen. Raymond believes the Russian maneuvers were intentional and demonstrated aggressive behavior.

Apparently, this is not the first Russian attempt at such space-based space reconnaissance. A prior mission in 2017 included the deployment of a similar satellite that released a sub-satellite. One of the satellites released a projectile into space that may have been a test of a weapon.

T.S. Kelso, Senior Research Astrodynamicist at Analytical Graphics Inc., said he could not yet provide any definitive analysis regarding the intentions of the latest Russian inspector satellite, because there is no independent source of observation data to address this specific situation.

Several years ago, in another instance of threatening behavior, a mysterious Russian military satellite parked itself between two Intelsat satellites in geosynchronous orbit. This situation lasted for five months. The Russian satellite was launched in September 2014, and seven months later was positioned directly between Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 901 satellites.

These two spacecraft are located just 0.5 degrees apart in longitude at 36,000 kilometers altitude. During the standoff the Russian satellite maneuvered to within about 10 kilometers of the Intelsat vehicles, close enough to create a potential risk to the satellites.

Many members of the space community believe this incident is the first publicly documented event in which a commercial operator has been subject to this kind of approach by a foreign military satellite. Unfortunately, commercial space operators do not have much recourse other than to ask the government for help.

Based on these events one can conclude that the Russians have been performing dress rehearsals for wartime attacks on U.S and other national space assets if a ground-based war breaks out. Clearly, space-based assets dedicated to national security are an important part of deterrence to war. However, it is extremely difficult to protect those assets from warmongering spacefaring adversaries.

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Astroscale has been selected as the commercial partner for Phase I of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) first debris removal project, a groundbreaking step by Japan to commercialize space debris removal. The JAXA Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration project (CRD2) consists of two mission phases to achieve one of the world's first debris removal missions of a large object, the first of which has been awarded to Astroscale. This first phase will be demonstrated by the end of the ... read more

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