The US believes Russia has launched anti-space weapon satellite

US intelligence believes Russia launched a satellite last week that can view and target other satellites in space. The US Space Command (USSPACECOM) reported this, according to Reuters.

On May 16, a Russian Soyuz rocket launched off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, sending at least nine satellites, including KOSMOS 2576, into low Earth orbit.

This is the type of Russian military “inspector” spacecraft that U.S. officials have long condemned as displaying dangerous 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 USSPACECOM spokesperson said in a statement to the agency.

“Russia has placed this new anti-space weapon in the same orbit as a US government satellite,” said a source. 

According to USSPACECOM, KOSMOS 2576 is similar to earlier launched counter-space payloads from 2019 and 2022. In the past, Russian satellites have been positioned near US espionage satellites.

A US intelligence official claims that US intelligence services foresaw the launch of KOSMOS 2576 and informed allies of their evaluation of the satellite prior to its launch into space.

The launch also included civilian satellites placed in a variety of orbits.

“This mix of military and civilian payloads was totally unexpected. Never seen that before on a Russian launch,” says Bart Hendricks, an analyst who has long studied Russia’s space program.

KOSMOS 2576 is comparable to satellites launched by Russia in 2019 and 2022, which the US alleged were counter-space weapons. The 2019 spacecraft sent an item into space, closely following a US intelligence satellite.

As of Tuesday, KOSMOS 2576 was not approaching the US satellite, but space observers noted that it is in the same orbital ring as USA 314, a bus-sized satellite launched by the US National Reconnaissance Office in April 2021. The Reconnaissance Office’s objective is to launch and operate spy satellites for the US federal government.

The Russian spacecraft appears to be moving faster along USA 314’s orbital path, indicating that they will eventually approach each other.

Earlier, the United States discreetly warned Russia against putting new nuclear weapons in orbit that might destroy a huge number of satellites.

According to US officials familiar with the intelligence, Russia has launched at least one satellite, KOSMOS 2553, applicable to its nuclear space weapons program.

Officially, the United States has alerted Congress and its European allies to fresh intelligence on Russia’s nuclear capabilities, which could represent a global threat. 

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