American commander of Space force, Gen John “Jay” Raymond, in his recent statement has expressed concern over two Russian satellites displaying unusual behavior by following a multi-billion American spy satellite. This statement is consistent with America’s stand in UN conference on disarmament held in august 2018. America’s trepidations originate from the fact that since 2013 Russia has developed satellites which demonstrate the capability to perform close-up inspections of objects in space.
Russian satellite Kosmos-2519, launched into geostationary orbit in 2017, seems to be one of the most advanced satellites by the country, with commando like capability to maneuver close to other satellites, inspect it and finally incapacitate the other satellite. This series of satellites are nicknamed Kamikaze satellites as the name Kamikaze is reminiscent of the Japanese special task military aviators from World War-II, who initiated suicide attacks.
Kosmos 2519 is not the only Russian geostationary satellite which has been caught creeping up on other spy satellites, LUCH or Olymp lunched in 2014 exhibits similar traits. Ideally, geosynchronous satellites are launched into space and maintain good distance from other satellites to avoid interference with each other, but recent Russian satellites have snubbed this setup. Ostensibly, LUCH gets snuggles very close to the other satellites in order to intercept the ground signals directed at the targeted satellite.
America has also claimed that Kosmos-2519 is like a Russian nesting doll, such that each satellite can birth a new satellite, and that Kosmos-2519 has so far produced two satellites from itself. It’s the two mini versions of Kosmos 2519 which are tracking now the American spy satellite.
Russia has vehemently opposed the American claims since 2018, and in the UN conference on disarmament held in 2018, Russian representative had confirmed that Kosmos-2519 is nothing but a “space apparatus inspector”.
With Gen John Raymond’s latest statement, the topic militarization of space has once again come to the fore as more and more countries are now in a race to not just launch new satellites but also to produce their own anti-satellite systems (ASAT), which have the capability to destroy any satellite e in the space that threaten the safety of other satellites. Very recently India joined US, Russia and China in producing it’s own indigenous ASAT system, by shooting down a test satellite at 300 Km altitude in low Earth orbit.
So far America is the only country to have raised a defence force dedicated to space, called space force, which is headed by Gen John Raymond himself. Ergo, it’s worth ruminating if Russian satellites getting close to US spy satellites is an offensive or a defensive maneuver?