Russian military satellite to get closer to American space scout

On August 4, the Russian military satellite “Kosmos-2558” will approach the American device USA 326. This was reported by astronomers Jonathan McDowell and Marco Langbroek, who specialize in maintaining statistics of space launches and tracking objects in near-Earth orbit.

Orbits of the Kosmos-2558 and USA 326 satellites. Source: Marco Langbroek

Kosmos-2558 was launched on August 1, 2022 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The Soyuz-2.1v rocket put it into orbit with a perigee height of 435 km, an apogee height of 452 km and an inclination of 97.3°. According to some reports, it is a “space inspector”: a device designed for visual inspection and tracking of other satellites. This, in particular, is indicated by the fact that on August 4, Kosmos-2558 will approach the American device USA 326. According to calculations by Jonathan McDowell and Marco Langbroek, the minimum approach distance between the two satellites will be about 75 km.

The US satellite USA 326 was launched into orbit in February 2022. Presumably, this is a next-generation electron-optical intelligence device, which may explain the increased interest in it from Russia.

It is worth noting that the US military still has time to change the orbit of USA 326 and try to avoid an undesirable rendezvous. In this case, two devices can start a kind of cat-and-mouse game in orbit, which will not be the first such case. For example, in 2020, the Kosmos-2542 spacecraft made a number of approaches to the American optical intelligence satellite USA 245. And in June of this year, the American satellite inspector USA 270 has already made a course correction, which sent it to a meeting with the Chinese devices “Shiyan-12-01” and “Shiyan-12-02”. Those, in turn, carried out a counter-maneuver to complicate the task of tracking themselves.

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