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Small, Mysterious Russian Satellite May Be A Space Weapon, US Says

Aug 19, 2018 09:11 PM EDT
Soyuz Satellite
Even seemingly harmless satellites could be alarming. The U.S. State Department warns that a small Russian satellite could actually be a dangerous space weapon.
(Photo : Pixabay)

The United States is getting suspicious about a Russian satellite in orbit, raising the possibility of a space weapon that is being kept under wraps.

The satellite dubbed as "space apparatus inspector" was launched by the Russian Ministry of Defense in October 2017. However, the United States State Department alleges that it has been behaving rather strangely to be just a regular space object.

State Department Calls Out Russia For Possible Weapon

During a United Nations Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, Aug. 14, Yleem Poblete, who is the State Department's assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, expressed some concerns over the mysterious satellite.

The inspector satellite, Poblete insists, is not acting like one that is simply designed for routine safety inspections.

"Its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities," she stated in her speech, adding that the department is concerned over the abnormal behavior being displayed by the satellite.

She said that the U.S. intelligence is not certain of the object's nature and there is no way to verify the suspicion.

"But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development," Poblete concludes, while pointing out that it is especially worrisome when considered alongside previous statements by the Russian Space Force Commander who spoke of assimilating prototypes of weapons into their military units.

The Treaty

Russia is one of the proponents of the "Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects" or PWWT. However, Poblete argues that the treaty's language does not prohibit anti-satellite capabilities that Russia is pursuing. Consequently, the United States does not expect the proposed PPWT to effectively reduce the risk of conflict in outer space.

Instead of a legally binding treaty, Poblete said that countries should consider implementing the practice of voluntary transparency, confidence-building measures, and norms of responsible behavior for activities in space.

United States Pushing For A Strong Space Force

As Space points out, Poblete's speech is in line with the administration's official position of the threat of a multi-nation conflict for space supremacy.

In response to the potential threat, the Trump administration is currently pushing for the creation of a sixth military branch called the Space Force.

"Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and challenge American supremacy in space as never before," Vice President Mike Pence said during the rollout of the Space Force plan last Aug. 9.

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