Two Russian Space Probes Stalk U.S. Spy Satellite

February 12, 2020 06:35 GMT

The newly-created U.S. Space Force has accused Russia of using a pair of its satellites to tail a U.S. spy satellite, calling it “disturbing behavior” while prompting a reserved response from Moscow on February 11.

General John Raymond, the Space Force chief of space operations, first told Time magazine on February 10 that the two Russian satellites had come extremely close and within 160 kilometers of the U.S. satellite.

“We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Raymond said. “It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed to AFP the following day that he had received a message from Washington regarding the situation, adding that “Moscow will respond after studying it.”

He called such maneuvers in space common practice “by many countries,” according to Russian news agencies.

Russia calls its space probes that follow other spacecraft “inspector satellites.”

The Russian spacecraft launched in November as one satellite, which later released a second craft from within it, almost “birthing it,” U.S. military analysts told Space.com.

This is reportedly the first time that the U.S. military has publicly revealed a threat from another country to one of its spacecraft.

The Space Force was established in December and is the sixth formal branch of the U.S. military, along with the army, air force, navy, marines, and coastguard.

In his 2021 budget proposal, President Donald Trump earmarked $15.4 billion for the new Space Force, which will be a “technology-focused service,” according to Raymond.

© RFE/RL 2020

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