Russian military satellite descended from orbit less than two months after launch

The Russian military satellite Kosmos-2560 descended from orbit and burned up in the earth’s atmosphere less than two months after its launch. This was announced by astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who specializes in conducting launch statistics and tracking objects in near-Earth orbit.

Kosmos-2560 was launched on October 15, 2022, from the Plesetsk military cosmodrome by the Angara-1.2 light rocket. It was the only cargo aboard the carrier. The purpose of the device was kept secret, but according to experts, it was an EMKA-class reconnaissance satellite. These devices are a simplified version of the Razbeg satellites.

After the launch, Roscosmos reported that stable communication was established and maintained with the device, and its onboard systems were operating normally. However, according to McDowell, during the entire time in orbit, Kosmos-2560 did not perform a single maneuver. As a result, on December 10, it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and burned up in the sky over the Pacific Ocean near the island of Guam. This happened less than two months after its launch.

Thus, Kosmos-2560 shared the fate of its two predecessors, Kosmos-2555 and Kosmos-2551. After entering orbit, they also did not perform a single maneuver and burned up in the atmosphere, respectively, 19 and 41 days after launch. Based on this, McDowell himself suggested that the lack of maneuvers could be due not to accidents, but to the original design of the devices — although in his own words, this is very strange.

However, this assumption is contradicted by the fact that the very first spacecraft of the Kosmos-2525 series spent three years in orbit and actively maneuvered to maintain the altitude necessary for photographing. The absence of a propulsion system actually makes the spy satellite disposable and limits its lifetime to several weeks. In this regard, the most likely explanation still lay in the fact that all three devices were lost due to some kind of serial defect that did not allow them to use the engines.

But even if this was intended, and Russia really switched to using disposable spy satellites, spending huge amounts of money to launch them, it indicated a deep crisis in its industry, unable to create a long-lived spacecraft and forced to use approaches that were outdated half a century ago. 

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