David Axe reports on a series of mysterious Russian satellite launches, beginning on Christmas Day of 2013:
It’s customary for Rodnik sats to deploy in threes, but in a notification to the United Nations, Moscow listed four spacecraft inside the Christmas Rokot.
The discrepancy was strange…and got stranger.
Rodnik sats, like most orbital spacecraft, don’t have engines and can’t move under their own power. So it came as a shock to some observers on the ground—a group including amateur satellite-spotters with radios and telescopes; radar-equipped civilian researchers; and military officials monitoring banks of high-tech sensors—when the Rokot’s fourth satellite, designated Kosmos-2491, moved, propelling itself into a slightly different orbit.
Whatever Kosmos-2491 was, it wasn’t some innocuous communications satellite. And over the next year and a half, Russia launched two more of the mysterious, maneuvering spacecraft, each time sneaking it into orbit as part of a routine commsat launch.
I have readers in the aerospace and the satellite communications/launch businesses — any clue what Moscow could be getting up to up there?