Spy and counter-spy, as in the plots of the 007s of the Cold War. This time, however, the shadowing takes place in space and risks increasing the tension between the United States and Russia. Last February the Pentagon launched a top secret satellite called USA-326 managed by the military Space Force: the characteristics are not known but according to the WarZone site it should be an innovative system for ground surveillance and image collection. His departure coincided with the final Russian deployment in view of the invasion of Ukraine: hence the suspicion that it serves above all to spy on the movements of the Moscow army.
On Monday, August 1, just at the exact moment of the passage of the USA-326, a Soyuz rocket launched the 14F150 system from the Soviet-era cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The authorities have only communicated that the name of the mission: Kosmos 2558. The 14F150 is an equally mysterious satellite that has slipped into an orbit very close to the US space spy. The characteristics of the launch suggest that the Russian one is an “inspector satellite”, like those sent into space in 2020 and 2018 to keep an eye on US initiatives. Today, however, the war makes the situation much more dangerous, because the news gathered by the Pentagon’s satellites is often turned over to Kiev and allows attacks on the Russian invaders.
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The distance between the two satellites is now 80 kilometers – as the astrophysicist researcher explained Jonathan Mcdowell – and it seems destined to decrease in the coming days. How much? Experts are divided. There are those who think that the Kosmos 2558 mission will stop at 50 kilometers: a safe distance to study the US satellite and collect data on the sensors and frequencies used to transmit information to the ground. And there are those who believe that the shadowing will go much closer, to try to disrupt the activity of USA-326. The orbiting Moscow “inspector” could use electronic jammers to annoy data transmissions. The most extreme hypothesis is that the Kosmos mission will damage the US apparatus, using special lasers or aerosols to obscure the spy optics that photograph Russian troops in Ukraine. Or that it can even lock onto the US satellite and divert its orbit. There are no official comments from the two governments but in the next few days the movements of the “inspector” will make it possible to decipher the real intentions of the Kremlin.
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