A trio of mysterious Russian government satellites startled space experts when, shortly after blasting into low orbit between 2013 and 2015, they began dramatically changing their orbits, demonstrating a rare degree of maneuverability for small spacecraft. Now after being idle for a year or more, two of the mystery-sats are on the move again. On April 20, 2017, one of them reportedly shaved hundreds of meters off its orbit in order to zoom within 1,200 meters of a big chunk of a defunct Chinese weather satellite that China smashed in a controversial 2007 test of an anti-satellite rocket.
By orbital standards, that’s pretty close. The Russian spacecrafts’ impressive maneuvers have got observers scratching their heads. No one outside of the Russian government — and probably the U.S. military — seems to know for sure what the satellites are for. Experts say the Russian satellites could be technology-demonstrators. They might also be precursors to orbital weapons. READ MORE