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The Russian spacecraft could get even closer to the American satellite this weekend

According to reports, a Russian satellite will get closer to an American spacecraft that has been lurking in orbit since last week.

Until last Thursday, the Russian satellite, Cosmos 2542, had synchronized its orbit with USA 245, an American satellite deployed for military and intelligence applications.

This change in orbit had taken Cosmos 2542 approximately 90 miles from the United States 245, according to Michael Thompson, a researcher graduated from the Space Flight Project Laboratory at Purdue University.

But the two satellites are ready to get even closer this weekend, possibly as close as 26 miles (42 km) as of this Thursday afternoon, they reveal publicly available satellite data.

& # 39; Cosmos 2542 made another maneuver on January 31 and is now returning to the United States 245 & # 39; tweeted Thompson

& # 39; The closest approach is currently set for February 7 and 10 & # 39 ;.

The blue line (US satellite) and the purple line (Russian satellite) as the latter moves a relatively short distance between the two

The blue line (US satellite) and the purple line (Russian satellite) as the latter moves a relatively short distance between the two

Cosmos 2542 has had the ability to observe USA 245 steadily over the past week and is "hanging around" US 245 in a consistent view, Thompson said last week.

It is not known why the Russian inspection satellite began tracking the US ship, but there may be a reason for counterintelligence.

USA 245 captures photos of the Earth to benefit the intelligence efforts of the United States government.

When approaching, Cosmos 2542 may be capturing intelligence photos of USA 245 itself or moving to a position to weaken its new American space neighbor.

Russia has a series of communications satellites positioned on Earth that the Kremlin could use to gather intelligence or even deactivate or destroy other satellites, according to Unit.

This could mark the beginning of a new era of "space warfare", where armed orbiting satellites try to gain ground on other nations' satellites.

The dates on the x-axis and the kilometers on the y-axis of this graph illustrate the distance between the two satellites, and what could be the closest approach this weekend.

The dates on the x-axis and the kilometers on the y-axis of this graph illustrate the distance between the two satellites, and what could be the closest approach this weekend.

The dates on the x-axis and the kilometers on the y-axis of this graph illustrate the distance between the two satellites, and what could be the closest approach this weekend.

The Russian satellite was launched in November, but only since the end of January did it begin to orbit relatively close to its American counterpart, according to Thompson, according to the data. detailed online by a community of amateur satellite trackers.

"As I write this, that travel distance travels between 150 and 300 kilometers (93 and 186 miles) depending on the location in the orbit," Thompson tweeted last Thursday.

This distance is relatively close for two satellites that orbit at a speed of thousands of miles per hour, about a second apart, he said.

"The relative orbit is actually quite well designed, where Cosmos 2542 can observe one side of the KH11 (USA 245) when both satellites go out to sunlight for the first time, and by the time they enter the eclipse, they have migrated to the other side." .

Its orbital periods are now separated by less than 1 second, which means that Cosmos 2542 is & # 39; hanging around the United States 245 in a consistent view & # 39;

Its orbital periods are now separated by less than 1 second, which means that Cosmos 2542 is & # 39; hanging around the United States 245 in a consistent view & # 39;

Its orbital periods are now separated by less than 1 second, which means that Cosmos 2542 is & # 39; hanging around the United States 245 in a consistent view & # 39;

Thompson said there are "a lot of circumstances" that make it appear that a well-known Russian inspection satellite is tracking the US spy satellite.

Cosmos 2542 was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 500 miles north of Moscow, in November, and was established in orbit between 250 miles and 550 miles above the Earth's surface.

In December, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it had conducted an experiment to deploy another smaller satellite, called Cosmos 2543, while in orbit, reports The Drive.

When it was launched, the Russian Ministry of Defense said: "The purpose of the experiment is to continue working to assess the technical condition of domestic satellites."

At the original launch in November, Russia said only Russian satellites would be inspected, Thompson added.

Have satellites ever collided in space?

In the decades since humanity first launched satellites into orbit, there have only been four known collisions between two of those objects in space.

But, experts say satellite accidents will be more common in the future.

The first occurred in 1991, when Russia's Cosmos 1934 was hit by a piece of Cosmos 926, according to ESA.

Five years later, France's Cerise satellite was hit by a piece of an Ariane 4 rocket.

Then, in 2005, the upper stage of the United States was hit by a piece of the third stage of a Chinese rocket. In 2009, an Iridium satellite crashed into Russia's Cosmos-2251.

. (tagsToTranslate) dailymail (t) sciencetech

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