The United States is arguably the nation with the most to lose in space.  Our way of life has become dependent on satellites for everything from our televisions to navigation in our cars, and our nation’s potential enemies are not only aware of it, they’re planning for it.

In March, a Russian military satellite called the Kosmos 2499 was launched.  The rocket’s upper stage that carried its payload into orbit released the satellite just like every other launch, but that’s where comparisons to traditional satellites stop.  The satellite then proceeded to conduct a series of eleven close approaches to the rocket as they both orbited the Earth.  These approaches went on for months, the most recent of which occurred in July, and on at least one occasion, it would seem the satellite actually nudged the rocket.

This type of orbital maneuverability could be indicative of a weapons system designed to disturb or destroy satellites in Earth’s orbit.  Aside from maneuvers specific to the rocket that launched the satellite, U.S. Air Force officials have also indicated that the satellite has approached unidentified space debris, seemingly in an effort to test its ability to locate, close with, and manipulate other items circling the globe high above our heads.

This satellite, informally referred to as “Object E” among the personnel at Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is the second Russian military satellite to demonstrate this sort of orbital maneuvering capability.  Both satellites have been closely watched by the U.S. Air Force, as well as other interested governmental bodies.