Russian satellites close in to snoop on US intelligence satellite, stirring new...

Russian satellites close in to snoop on US intelligence satellite, stirring new concerns

The Falcon 9 Starlink rocket successfully lifted off of Pad 40 on January 29, 2020, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Th Starlink Constellation is a collection of satellites used to provide satellite internet access and the 45th Space Wing has supported the launch of two Starlink installments in the year 2020 alone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

WASHINGTON – The new U.S. Space Force was an early winner in the 2021 budget proposal released yesterday and the Russians apparently have given a boost to the need for the fledgling entity.

Gen. John Raymond, commander of the Space Force, said Monday that two Russian satellites are tracking, chasing and snooping on an advanced U.S. spy satellite, coming within 100 miles of the spacecraft.

In space distance, that is dangerously close.

Raymond told Time magazine that the Russian satellite was launched in November and called its movements “unusual and disturbing.”

The Russian satellites — the initial one split into two — are believed to have high-grade cameras to snare close-up photos of the U.S. spy satellite. They may also have capabilities to disrupt the U.S. satellite, some Pentagon officials told TMN.

“It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space,” Raymond told Time. Time said after the Russian satellite was launched in November.

The Russian satellite Kosmos 2542 had casually maneuvered into the same area in orbit as USA 245 – a satellite the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) operates. The NRO is an agency within the Department of Defense, one of the five major U.S. intelligence agencies.

Russian launched a similar satellite in 2017 that also demonstrated behavior on-orbit that was inconsistent with protocol on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, Pentagon officials said.

During budget briefings Monday to Pentagon reporters, Pentagon officials made it clear that space is going to be an active military domain.

Pentagon officials have acknowledged that Russia and China are at least more competitive with the U.S. in the space warfare domain and, in some cases, ahead of Washington.

For example, China has already successfully tested a weapon that can take down satellites in orbit. Last year India said it also has the capacity to down satellites.

Last fall, Raymond said China is developing directed energy weapons to blind the optical sensors onboard America’s fleet of KH-11 spy satellites, rendering them useless.

The advances of Russia and China in space have motivated France to form its own Space Force and to make priority developing counters to those threats. The U.S. is expected to work closely with France in an approach to the military in space, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a recent news conference.

President Trump’s proposed budget seeks $15 billion for the Space Force for fiscal year 2021.

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