Despite heightening tensions here on Earth, the United States has long enjoyed a cooperative relationship with Russia when it comes to space.  In fact, all five space fairing organizations involved in orbital operations within the International Space Station maintain open lines of communication regarding everything that reaches the man-made island of habitability high above the barrier between Earth and the heavens… that is, until now.

On Thursday, Russia aborted the launch of a Progress MS-07 rocket from the famed Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan that was chock full of important supplies for the six crew members currently living aboard the ISS.  The launch itself was expected to be normal enough, as was the cargo inside, but when Russia released photographs of the rocket as they prepared for launch, NASA experts noticed something they’d never seen before: an unusual instrument mounted on the exterior front section of the ship.

Mounting a never-before-seen device to the nose of one of these craft isn’t unheard of, and Russia actually attached a different gadget, the Otrazhenie-5 (reflection) device, to a similar launch in 2014.  That experiment used an optical sensor to measure atmospheric phenomena, and ultimately burned up on reentry as the capsule returned to earth.  What makes Thursday’s launch so different, however, is how Russia responded when asked about it by NASA.

Russia was aware of the photographs of the ship, including the strange device attached to it, seemingly suggesting that they aren’t trying to keep it a secret, but when contacted by NASA, Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) replied only that it was a scientific instrument intended for a one-time trip… and refused to offer any further details.