Pentagon condemns ‘irresponsible’ launch of Russian satellite

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The Pentagon opposes Russia’s launch of a spy satellite believed to be closely shadowing one of its American counterparts in the same orbit.

The Russian satellite known as Kosmos-2558, launched on August 1st and appears to have been placed in almost the same orbit as a classified American reconnaissance satellite started on February 2nd. Kosmos 2558 has been mirroring the orbit of the American satellite with a since August 2, according to Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek difference of only 0.04 degrees (opens in new tab) and a separation of 37 miles (60 kilometers).

“This is truly irresponsible behavior,” said General James H. Dickinson, commander of US Space Command (SPACECOM) in one report (opens in new tab) published by NBC News. “We see it in a similar orbit as one of our high value assets for the US government. And so, as always, we will continue to update and follow that up,” Dickinson continued.

Related: Did Russia just launch a spacecraft to track a US spy satellite?

A camera crew from NBC News was allowed to see the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC (opens in new tab)) at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to the NBC News report, this is the first time cameras have been allowed at the facility. JICSpOC’s mission is to collect and integrate data from a variety of satellites and ground-based surveillance stations, and then share that information with the entire US military and intelligence community.

“We have some really good space capabilities today that tell us almost immediately if there’s been a launch,” an unnamed Space Force officer says in NBC’s report.

Kosmos-2558 is rumored to be a so-called “inspector satellite” capable of maneuvering relatively close to other spacecraft. Other Russian satellites have been observed in the past show the same behaviors.

The mission and capabilities of the American satellite being “tracked” by Kosmos-2558 are not known, but it is believed to be capable of gathering imagery information.

This is not the first time the United States has condemned Russia’s irresponsible activities in orbit. In 2021, Russia launched a missile destroy one of his own defunct satellitesand left behind thousands of pieces of orbital debris, some of which prompted the International Space Station to do so maneuver out of the danger zone.

“Dangerous and irresponsible behavior threatens the long-term sustainability of space and clearly shows that Russia’s claims to oppose the weapons and armament of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price said then.

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