Between 2014 and 2015, the Russian space agency launched a mysterious satellite into orbit which prompted fears of unknown space weaponry. A leading theory was that the satellite could be some type of secretive space weapon capable of destroying or hijacking other satellites. The satellite, known as Object 2014-28E, took position in orbit shortly after its launch and went ‘cold,’ not moving or displaying any unusual activity other than repositioning itself once in 2015. Now, amateur astronomers and satellite-trackers have observed the satellite displaying mysterious behavior which has re-ignited fears of a new type of space war.
The activity was reported by RussianSpaceWeb.com, a site which tracks Russian space activity. According to a recent update, the satellite - here designated by its Russian title, Kosmos-2504 - has recently been positioning itself near other satellite and repositioning itself closer to Earth:
[...] on April 20, Kosmos-2504 passed as close as 1,183 meters from Object 1999-025DPP, which is a remnant of a Chinese weather satellite, Fengyun-1C, destroyed on Jan 11, 2007, in an apparent test of China's anti-satellite missile. The Russian spacecraft then conducted another maneuver between April 18 and April 19, 2017. By April 20, 2017, the satellite's perigee was reduced to 627 kilometers from 1,145 kilometers on March 30.
Two other Russian satellites launched during the same time period as Object 2014-28E have been seen displaying similar strange behavior in recent months. Some experts speculate these mysterious Russian satellites could simply be prototypes for new ultra-maneuverable satellite technology. Of course, they could just as likely be revolutionary orbital weapons. TheDailyBeast reportedly reached out to Russian space agencies for a comment on the unusual behavior, but received none. A U.S. Air Force spokesman replied only with a comment that U.S. Strategic Command is tracking the satellites along with thousands of other orbital objects.
Safeguarding satellites has become a national security concern for the world’s superpowers, as both China and Russia have tested satellite-killing weapons in the last few decades. It’s foolish to think that Western nations haven’t done the same. After all, the ‘re-awakening’ of these Russian satellites comes hot on the heels the recent return to Earth by the USAF’s mysterious X-37B space plane, which some have speculated could be used to pluck adversaries’ satellites out of their orbits and return them to Earth.
Disabling an adversary’s GPS and communication satellites could provide a huge benefit on the battlefield. Could this unusual satellite activity presage an oncoming global conflict, or could this be a benign test of new space tech? As usual, the truth is likely somewhere in between.