A Russian satellite said to have been displaying unusual behavior has raised suspicion that it could be a space weapon, the U.S. Department of State has reported in a statement. The agency claims the behavior of the object, launched as a space-inspecting apparatus, is inconsistent with on-orbit inspection activities.
The Russian Ministry of Defense launched the space object in October, but its “very abnormal behavior” suggests it is not being used for space situational awareness capabilities, assistant secretary Yleem Poblete said earlier this week at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it. But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development,” she said, according to the statement. She added that the object’s behavior is even more concerning given recent comments made by the commander of Russia’s Space Forces, who said adopting “new prototypes of weapons” was one of the force’s key objectives.
In response to the accusations, Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat, dismissed the comments as “unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on,” according to BBC News.
The prospect of a space war breaking out is particularly pressing given the recent decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to create a sixth military branch called Space Force.
“What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the official rollout of the program last week in regards to how Americans view the current situation in space, Metro reported.
Pence added that other nations are attempting to disrupt the current space-based systems and challenge American supremacy, allegations that the Russians have denied being a part of, according to the Metro report.
Deyneko has called on the U.S. to join a Russian-Chinese treaty aimed at preventing an arms race in space, BBC News reported. However, the U.S. Department of State has stated that the treaty is flawed to the point of being unviable, according to its statement.
The Department of State also added that Russia’s official diplomatic position on outer space matters is inconsistent with the way it is handling the concerns over the satellite.
“The only certainty we have is that this system has been ‘placed in orbit.’ The rest of its demonstrated behavior is unexpected and unclear to us,” Poblete said in the U.S. Department of State statement.