Soyuz 2.1v rocket being hoisted on the ramp of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome with the mysterious Kosmos-2558 satellite. Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense

Russian federation may have launched an “inspector satellite” with the chapters to perform hunter-killer missions to monitor and potentially shoot down The states spy satellites.

On Baronial 1, Russia launched the Kosmos-2558 satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Although the purpose of the satellite is unknown, a 2022 commodity by The Universe magazine notes that some reports say it is designed to inspect and runway other satellites.

The same report mentions that on August 4, Kosmos-2558 approached within 75 kilometers of the The states-326 satellite, which co-ordinate to NASA carries a classified payload.

The Warzone defense publication cites a printing release from the U.s.a. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) which says The states-326 was launched to perform “overhead reconnaissance missions,” which revolves around space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

The article also mentions that USA-326 might exist a side by side-generation imagery intelligence (IMINT) satellite, which is a follow-upwardly to the before KH-11 IMINT spy satellites which entered service in the 1970s.

The Warzone also notes that while Kosmos-2558 may exist an inspector satellite on the surface, it could potentially be a new anti-satellite weapon designed to search and destroy enemy satellites.

While information technology makes sense to launch inspector satellites to monitor, repair and upgrade existing satellites without manned missions, these satellites could exist repurposed into space-based anti-satellite weapons, the Warzone reports.

The same source notes that whatever satellite that can physically interact with other satellites has the inherent adequacy to be used as a weapon.

The Kosmos-2558 satellite is launched into space. Moving-picture show: Russian Defense Ministry building

Such satellites can exist equipped with robotic arms to capture or smash enemy satellites, directed energy weapons such as lasers or high-powered microwaves, or mount guns and missiles. They can also be dispatched to crash into enemy satellites.

Russian federation previously has shadowed US spy satellites with satellites that could be weaponized. A 2022 article in reports that in 2020 ii Russian satellites maneuvered within 160 kilometers of the U.s.a.-245 spy satellite, a move the The states criticized every bit “unusual and disturbing.”

In a 2018 commodity, The Warzone mentioned that Russia conducted a like launch in 2017 and three other launches between 2013 and 2015. The satellites Kosmos-2491, Kosmos-2499 and Kosmos-2504, launched between 2013 and 2015, conducted several tests including maneuvering shut to space debris.

The article notes that this could demonstrate these satellites’ capability to “hibernate” within infinite debris fields while collecting intelligence or fifty-fifty send out jamming and spoofing signals to confuse satellite navigation and missile guidance systems.

More tellingly, The states spy satellites are very vulnerable to such attacks. A 2016 article on the SOFREP defense website notes that about Us satellites have no evasive or defensive capabilities to prevent hunter-killer satellites from engaging and fifty-fifty destroying them.

Russia has deployed a sizeable arsenal of anti-satellite weapons since the Cold State of war. These include terrestrial weapons such as the Peresvet basis-based anti-satellite laser, and space-based weapons noted by Space Security Index such every bit the Istrebitel Sputnikov interceptor, Naryad missile-armed satellite and Skif-DM light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation-armed satellite.

Russia’south evolution of counter-space capabilities is driven by its military doctrine, notes defence analyst Juliana Suess in a 2021 Royal United Service Constitute (RUSI) article. She writes that Russian federation’s doctrine centers on achieving information dominance in futurity warfare, in which infinite assets – with their critical roles in transmitting and storing data – are certain to play vital roles.

She notes the cosmos of the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2015 as a response to the shift of mod combat’s heart of gravity into the space domain. As infinite increasingly becomes an enabler of current combat operations, the domain could also host conflict.

The U.s. Pentagon asserts that “China and Russia present the greatest strategic threat due to their evolution, testing, and deployment of counterspace capabilities and their associated armed forces doctrine for employment in conflict extending to space.” Credit: Handout.

She also mentions that Russian federation is adapting its forces to assault space systems and that infinite capabilities would support not-contact warfare. This doctrine implies using standoff weapons such as hypersonic missiles that depend on satellite guidance.

Suess also notes the lack of governing norms regarding the militarization of space. She points out that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the electric current international law regulating space usage, lacks particular and does non cover conventional weapons.

This lack of policy clarity tin allow infinite to plow into another grey zone domain. In a 2020 Air Force Magazine commodity, Rachel Cohen follows Suess’ line of idea, noting the lack of internationally-accustomed norms on space beliefs, gaps in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the development of counter-space capabilities challenge the idea of space as a shared asset for all humanity.