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US Spy Satellite Buzzes ISS (arstechnica.com) 121

The spy satellite that SpaceX launched about six weeks ago appears to have buzzed the International Space Station in early June. The fly-by was made by a dedicated group of ground-based observers who continued to track the satellite after it reach outer space. Ars Technica reports: One of the amateur satellite watchers, Ted Molczan, estimated the pass on June 3 to be 4.4km directly above the station. Another, Marco Langbroek, pegged the distance at 6.4km. "I am inclined to believe that the close conjunctions between USA 276 and ISS are intentional, but this remains unproven and far from certain," Molczan later wrote. One expert in satellite launches and tracking, Jonathan McDowell, said of the satellite's close approach to the station, "It is not normal." While it remains possible that the near-miss was a coincidence due to the satellite being launched into similar orbit, that would represent "gross incompetence" on the part of the National Reconnaissance Office, he said. Like the astronaut, McDowell downplayed the likelihood of a coincidence. Another option is that of a deliberate close flyby, perhaps to test or calibrate an onboard sensor to observe something or some kind of activity on the International Space Station. "The deliberate explanation seems more likely, except that I would have expected the satellite to maneuver after the encounter," McDowell said. "But it seems to have stayed in the same orbit."
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US Spy Satellite Buzzes ISS

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  • Trump (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Trump probably decided he could declassify it to the Russians on board ISS, and let them have a good look.

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Thursday June 15, 2017 @06:34AM (#54624331)

    Had it been a Russian spy satellite, the USA would be screaming "irresponsibility & recklessness" on part of the Russians.

    Question is: Am I wrong?

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      Have you been asleep for the past year? The current administration believes Putin is God.

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        Hell if Trump was about forty/fifty IQ points higher, and it was easier to assassinate journalists in the US, you'd already have your own little golden Putin.
    • Whether a flyby is dangerous or safe depends on how well you know the path of both objects. The trajectory of the ISS is very well known, and the trajectory of the spy satellite is (presumably) very well known. Probably to within a few hundred meters. So they could've accurately predicted that the two were in no danger of colliding, and this was a safe pass. The same would've been true for an active Russian or Chinese spy satellite (though it would've required sharing of precise orbital element info bet
  • Well, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Thursday June 15, 2017 @07:20AM (#54624423) Homepage

    Now we know what this new satellite does. It aims at other satellites and buzzes them (and/or photographs them, or destroys them, either by smashing into it, or by using some sort of weapon on the platform itself).

    • by Entrope ( 68843 )

      What should we conclude about you, from this one comment taken in isolation? That what you "do" is post inane comments on the Internet?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Spy calibration on something big and well understood on the way up?
      Or someone got metric to imperial wrong again?
      The approach ellipsoid was avoided and its ok?
      Coincidence? A mistake or some mil math got done?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or, just like people, they're passing each other on the sidewalk.

      One an assassin, the other a research scientist.
      They pass each other with zero interaction, but the drama-queen on the corner who spend his day pointing fingers at others sees a tremendously big deal.

    • But why test it on a manned satellite, when there are so many unmanned satellites to choose from?

  • What a disgusting neglect and gross lack of responsibility. The UN and world governments MUST act on this, it's unprecedented and can not be tolerated. If another country had done this, the U.S. would've thrown a huge circus about it themselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    looks like the orbit was planned this way; observers were predicting close passes...


  • by Anonymous Coward

    What this means is the movie Gravity may be possible after all. Take that Neil deGrasse Tyson!

  • "Another question, if the maneuver was deliberate, is whether the US government informed Russia or other international partners on the space station. The Russian segment of the station controls the thrusters that generally are used to maneuver the station away from orbital debris, so such coordination might seem prudent." Also, appropriate Top Gun reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • It would be a twofer. Destroying a Cold War legacy satellite and the huge boondoggle that is the ISS at the same time.

  • The fly-by was made by a dedicated group of ground-based observers

    Was it? Or did they merely observe it?

  • ...it remembered to me that I have to renew my car insurance.

  • And his RIO are being chewed out about circus stunt flybys.
  • The fly-by was made by a dedicated group of ground-based observers who continued to track the satellite

    No it wasn't.

    after it reach outer space.


  • LEO is not "outer space" - not even close to it. You're still in the atmosphere.

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