Russia has switched some mysterious satellites back on and experts are scrambling to figure out why.
The satellites, called Kosmos-2491, Kosmos-2499 and Kosmos-2504, were launched between 2013 and 2015 and started changing their orbits before quietly becoming stationary. The unusual moves raised suspicion among experts that they might be early models of space weapons.
Now two of the spacecraft are on the move again according to the Daily Beast, one moving close to a large piece of a defunct Chinese weather satellite. China destroyed that satellite in 2007 as part of a test of an anti-satellite missile.
No one knows for sure what the Russian satellites are although speculation includes technology-demonstrator and orbital weapons.
Anatoly Zak, an independent expert on Russian spacecraft, is quoted in the Daily Beast article saying the possible war-time applications of inspection satellites are obvious.
“You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them,” Zak said of the Kosmos triplets in 2015. “If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm.”
Russia isn’t the only country with mysterious spacecraft. The U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane just returned from 600 days in orbit.