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Russian satellite disintegrated above Earth. Over the years, Kosmos 2499 has been controversial

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The Kosmos 2499 satellite disintegrated in near-Earth space, the United States Space Force announced last week. The debris will most likely remain in orbit for many decades. It is a controversial object whose elevation and purpose remain a mystery.

In May 2014, the Rokot rocket carrying three satellites was launched from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome. To the surprise of observers, four objects separated from it in extraterrestrial space. The mysterious fourth satellite has been named Kosmos 2499. Now, almost a decade after its mission began, it has broken into pieces. It is not yet certain why.

Double satellite decay

As reported by the 18th brigade of the United States Space Forces (18 SDS), the satellite broke up on January 4, and monitoring systems track the position of 85 fragments of the device, which are located at an altitude of 1,169 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

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18 SDS added that an analysis of the fragments is underway.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reminded that this is not the first breakup of Cosmos 2499. In October 2021, 22 smaller fragments detached from the main part of the satellite.

A mission shrouded in mystery

Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation explained to Ars Technica that the debris is likely to remain in extraterrestrial space for a long time, as the current breakup occurred high above Earth. For comparison, it is estimated that the remnants of the anti-satellite defense test conducted in 2007 at an altitude of 865 km will be in orbit for several decades.

Russian debris could therefore orbit the planet until the end of the 21st century.

Cosmos 2499 has raised a lot of doubts from the beginning. It was one of the satellites launched secretly under the guise of other missions. The world’s attention was drawn to the way they moved – they performed precise maneuvers and even changed their altitude. This has translated into a large number of theories about the purpose of satellites, from spy devices to a system for shooting down other objects.

Official Russian sources say that the satellites were used to test experimental plasma engines.

ScienceAlert, Ars Technica

Main photo source: Adobe Stock

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