Russia successfully placed a military satellite in orbit Thursday which is, according to specialized media, likely part of its anti-missile space shield of which very few details have been disclosed to the public.
The satellite was launched at 01:09 GMT from the Plessetsk Cosmodrome in the northwest of the country by a Soyuz 2.1B rocket, according to images released by the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Probably an early warning device “Tundra”
The machine “has been successfully placed in the desired orbit in the interest of the Russian Ministry of Defense”, for its part indicated without further details the ministry in question, quoted by the Interfax press agency.
According to the Spaceflightnow site, which specializes in space launches, this satellite is most likely a “Tundra” early warning machine, copies of which had already been put into orbit by Russia in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Detect ballistic missile launches from space
According to another media specializing in Russian space, the site Russianspaceweb, the satellite launched Thursday is part of the mysterious anti-missile space shield “Kupol” (“Dome”), which Moscow had revealed in detail in December 2019.
This system is intended to detect from space the launch of ballistic missiles, their trajectory and the targeted area, according to documents presented at the time by the Russian General Staff. The full composition of “Koupol”, which is the equivalent of the American SBIRS system, is not known.
Moscow accused of militarizing space
Russia, which has already had a “space force” integrated into its air forces since 2015 and whose main role is anti-missile warfare, has been accused for years of militarizing space. Moscow in turn accuses the United States of the same intentions.
In 2018, Washington was alarmed at the “very abnormal behavior” of a Russian satellite, accusing Moscow of seeking to develop space weapons, which the Kremlin denies.
More recently, Russia sparked controversy in mid-November by pulverizing an old Soviet satellite in orbit during a test fire with a weapon whose nature has not been revealed. This shot generated, according to Washington, a “cloud” of potentially dangerous debris.