A senior U.S. diplomat has accused Russia of deploying another small, specialized satellite into orbit that it could use as an anti-satellite weapon. This is at least the fourth such system the Kremlin has launched since 2013 and highlights a continued lack of internationally accepted ground rules for hostile activities in space, even as the United States seeks to increase its military capabilities above the Earth’s atmosphere.
Yleem Poblete, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, raised the concerns about the Russian “space apparatus inspector” at a meeting of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland on Aug. 14, 2018. Russia publicly announced the launch of this satellite in June 2017, but insists that its only function is to inspect the country’s own space-based systems for damage or other possible issues and potentially service and repair them.
The Russian satellite’s “behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Poblete said at the gathering. “We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior by a declared ‘space apparatus inspector.’ We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it.”