A TOP-SECRET spy satellite operated by Russia is feared to have "disintegrated" in space.
The mysterious probe had lurked in Earth's orbit for more than half a decade and was reportedly designed to inspect and destroy enemy satellites in orbit.
It broke up in orbit unannounced in late December, according to one ex-Nasa expert.
"In Dec 2013 Russa launched … three military communications satellites and a fourth, initially unannounced, payload, later acknowledged with the cover name Kosmos-2491," astronomer Dr Jonathan McDowell wrote on Twitter.
"It appeared to end its mission in 2014. However, at about 1321 UTC on 2019 Dec 23, the satellite made an orbit change and 10 debris objects have now been catalogued."
The sudden appearance of debris suggests the spacecraft broke apart in orbit. The Kremlin has not commented on the loss of the satellite.
According to Dr McDowell, the incident could have been a calculated move or the result of a random collision with space debris.
"The inference is that Kosmos-2491 may have disintegrated," he said.
He added that this could have occurred "through deliberate destruction, accidental battery or prop event, or through an accidental debris collision.
"I lean to accident since it is my guess the sat has been dead for several years, but it’s not certain."
Dr McDowell once plied his trade at Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Center, but has worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics since 1992.
After thinking about it for a while, the space buff concluded that left over propellant (prop) in one of the craft's fuel tanks may have led to 2491's demise.
He continued: "After sleeping on it, I lean towards a residual-prop debris event.
"Rocket stages which don’t do depletion burns sometimes blow up years later.
"Although K2491 did not manoeuvre other sats of its type did; maybe the prop system failed and was still full.
"So that’s what I’m labelling it as for now, however an external orbital debris hit is only slightly less likely."
The Kremlin hardly uttered a word about 2491's short mission – leading to rampant speculation about its purpose.
Many suggested the satellite was some kind of secret space weapon.
The rumours led Russian space agency chief Oleg Ostapenko to insist the tech was not a "killer satellite" at a press conference in December 2014.
However, experts have argued the tech is a precursor to heavily armed space probes designed to take out snooping enemy satellites.
Terrifying space weapons of the future
Here are three of the scariest…
Rods from God
- A strange but utterly terrifying weapon has been dubbed "rods from the God" and is based on the concept of creating man-made meteorites that can be guided towards the enemy.
- Instead of using rocks rods the size of telephone poles are deployed.
- These would be made out of tungsten — a rare metal that can stand the intense heat generated by entering Earth's atmosphere.
- One satellite fires the rods towards the Earth's atmosphere while the other steers them to a target on the ground.
- Reaching speeds of 7000mph they hit the ground with the force of a small nuclear weapon — but crucially creating no radiation fall out.
- As bizarre as it sounds, a US Congressional report recently revealed the military has been pushing ahead with the kinetic space weapons.
Molten metal cannons
- This intriguing idea is being developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
- It is called the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or MAHEM.
- This game changing rail-gun can fire a jet of molten metal, hurled through space at several hundred miles per second by the most powerful electromagnets ever built.
- The molten metal can then morph into an aerodynamic slug during flight and pierce through another spacecraft or satellite and a munition explodes inside.
Space force ships
- Already the United States is powering head with its spacecraft, although China is busy developing one of their own.
- The top secret American XS-1 under development by DARPA.
- It can travel ten times the speed of sound and launch missiles.
- Meanwhile an unmanned craft is currently being developed in the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province, which is also known as Base 29.
"Looking at the history of space technology, it often starts with a small and cheap satellite that’s easy to launch, then the same technology gets incorporated into something larger," said Anatoly Zak, a Russian-born journalist and space historian.
"You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them.
"If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm."
Similar anti-sat satellites are operated by the UK, Canada and the United States.
It's feared that the aggressive space tech could one day target more than spy probes.
They may eventually help Russia cripple another country's economy by destroying communications and Wi-Fi satellites.
In other space news, Nasa recently revealed the design of a moon lander that could take astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024.
The space agency has released an unusual image of the "bat-shaped" death explosion of a massive star.
And, three monster black holes were spotted crashing into one another last year.
What do you think happened to the satellite? Let us know in the comments…Source: Read Full Article