Mysterious Russian satellite alarms U.S. officials

U.S. officials are worried that a Russian satellite exhibiting unusual behavior may be a new space-based weapon.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 16, 2018
A Russian satellite displaying "very abnormal behavior" is raising alarms among U.S. officials, said Yleem Poblete, the U.S. State Department's assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance, on Tuesday in Switzerland. Poblete said that the satellite is displaying behavior "inconsistent with anything seen before" from space satellites and that its presence is "troubling," adding that it may be a weapon.

"We don't know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it. But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling developmentparticularly, when considered in concert with statements by Russia's Space Force Commander," Poblete said.

Poblete was speaking at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Her statement occurred less than a week after the Pentagon announced the pending creating of a new Space Force as a sixth branch of the armed forces. The Department of Defense released a report August 9 calling for such a force, in part because of concerns that China and Russia might be developing military capabilities in spacefor example, satellite capable of destroying other satellites or sabotaging satellite-based communications networks.

Russia launched the satellite in question in October last year. A Russian Ministry of Defense press release said that the satellite was simply an "inspector" satellite and not weaponized.

Poblete noted this press release but also pointed out that the Russian defense ministry also announced in March 1 of this year the development of a "mobile laser system" for its "space troops."

The United States has developed space weapon capabilities, as well, according to Alexandra Stickings, a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute. She said that it is difficult to determine these weapons' capabilities as most of the information is classified.

 

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