US assesses Russia launched space weapon near American satellite last week

By Thomson Reuters May 21, 2024 | 5:27 PM

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia last week launched a satellite that U.S. intelligence officials believe to be a weapon capable of inspecting and attacking other satellites, the U.S. Space Command said Tuesday as the Russian spacecraft trails a U.S. spy satellite in orbit.

Russia’s Soyuz rocket blasted off from its Plesetsk launch site some 500 miles (805 km) north of Moscow on May 16, deploying in low-Earth orbit at least nine satellites including COSMOS 2576, a type of Russian military “inspector” spacecraft U.S. officials have long condemned as exhibiting reckless space behavior.

“We have observed nominal activity and assess it is likely a counterspace weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit,” a USSPACECOM spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

“Russia deployed this new counterspace weapon into the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite.”

COSMOS 2576 resembled previously deployed counterspace payloads from 2019 and 2022, the statement added, referring to past Russian tactics of deploying satellites close to sensitive U.S. spy satellites.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Stephen Coates)