A Russian satellite launched late last year, which later split into two, has been tracking a US spy satellite, the commander of the US Spaceforce has alleged.
He told Time magazine that the Russian Kosmos satellites are showing unusual and disturbing behavior. The two satellites have been traveling close to the US satellite. The US has raised concerns over the travel path followed by the Russian satellites with Moscow through diplomatic channels.
The Kosmos 2542 was noticed to be in the same orbit path as the USA 245. The US satellite is operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), one of the major US intelligence agencies.
The commander compared the two satellites to the satellites launched by Russia in 2017 which reportedly displayed characteristics of a weapon.
Kosmos 2542 and 2543
Direct identification of a threat from an adversary can alter several things in understanding the changing dynamics of outer space. The spacecraft was launched by Russia in November and was initially just one satellite, Kosmos 2542, and was not close to the US satellite. Two weeks after its launch, the satellite split into two and has reportedly been trailing the US 245. It moved into close orbit with the US satellite and was in clear view. It has come around 300 kilometers from the US 245.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the satellite was an experiment in which one satellite birthed another satellite concluding their experiment on "technical condition of domestic satellites".
The suspicion that the Russian spacecraft were inspecting the US satellite arose when they came into the range and were able to see multiple sides of the US 245 due to their orbiting nature. Satellite trackers and the MIT Technology Review of 2020 speculated the inspection by the Russian satellites which were confirmed by the US Space Force Commander Gen. John Raymond to Time.
This incident has led the White House, Pentagon, and Congressional backers to believe that there is a need for a space force to be in place. There are heightened concerns of militarization and weaponization of outer space ever since the US decided on the Space Force.
The Space Force is seeking $15 million in this week's budget and the present incident is seen as throwing light in favor of a force in outer space.