Is the newly launched Russian spacecraft a spysat stalker?

A newly launched Russian spy satellite could be tasked with tracking down one of its American counterparts.

The Russian satellite, known as Cosmos 2558 (opens in a new tab)would have been an “inspector’s” craft even before it took off on Monday (August 1), noted Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek in a tuesday blog post (opens in a new tab) (August 2nd). And those rumors are unlikely to die down anytime soon.

Kosmos 2558 was launched into the same orbital plane as USA 326, an American spy satellite that flew a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into orbit last February, noted Langbroek. The two satellites are also close in altitude, and they should soon have a relatively close encounter, provided that neither performs significant maneuvers the next day or so.

Related: Photos and designs of declassified US spy satellites

“With the current orbit, Kosmos 2558 will make a relatively close approach to the United States [326] August 4 around 14:47 UTC [10:47 a.m. EDT]”, wrote Langbroek. “The approach distance is about 75 km [47 miles]; almost all of this (73 km [45 miles]) is aloft.”

To be fair, USA 326 seems to be quite interesting. The classified US satellite recently ejected something – either a sub-satellite or a piece of debris – according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell (opens in a new tab)which is based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

It wouldn’t be shocking if Kosmos 2558 was a spysat stalker. After all, two Russian satellites maneuvered within 100 miles of the US spacecraft USA 245. early 2020as noted by Langbroek.

US officials were not happy with this apparent orbital inspection.

“We consider this behavior to be unusual and disturbing,” said General John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the US Space Force. told Time magazine (opens in a new tab) at the time. “It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”

Does the Kosmos 2558 live up to the same tricks? “It will be interesting to follow the two satellites [in] weeks to come, to see what happens,” Langbroek wrote.

Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).

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