A newly launched Russian spy satellite could be deployed to track one of its American rivals.
Before its August 1 launch, the Russian satellite Kosmos 2558 was believed to be an “inspector” vehicle, according to a blog post by Dutch satellite tracker Marco Langbroek.
According to Langbroek, USA 326, an American spy satellite was sent into orbit this past February on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into the same orbital plane as Kosmos 2558. The two satellites are also near to one another in altitude. A close collision is anticipated if neither makes any significant maneuvers over the next few days.
“With the current orbit, Kosmos 2558 will make a relatively close approach to the USA  on August 4 near 14:47 UTC [10:47 a.m. EDT],” Langbroek wrote. “The approach distance is ~75 km [47 miles]; almost all of that (73 km [45 miles]) is in altitude.”
The USA 326 seems to be interesting. The classified American satellite recently expelled something, either a subsatellite or a piece of debris, said astronomer and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
However, if Kosmos 2558 were a spy satellite stalker, it wouldn’t be unexpected. After all, as Langbroek noted, two Russian satellites passed the USA 245 spacecraft in the early 2020s within about 100 miles (160 km).
American policymakers did not like this claimed orbital inspection.
“We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S Space Force, told Time magazine at the time. “It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”
Is Kosmos 2558 up to the same shenanigans? “It will be interesting to see what happens with both satellites in the coming weeks,” Langbroek added.