A secretive Russian satellite launched nearly a decade ago has experienced a “breakup” in outer space, according to a tweet published by the US Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron.
The Space Force said the Kosmos 2499 spacecraft disintegrated on Jan. 4 and unleashed a hazardous cloud of debris orbiting the planet.
#18SDS has confirmed the breakup of COSMOS 2499 (#39765, 2014-028E) – occurred Jan 4, 2023 at appx 0357 UTC. Tracking 85 associated pieces at est 1169 km altitude – analysis ongoing. #spacedebris #space @SpaceTrackOrg @US_SpaceCom @ussfspoc
— 18th Space Defense Squadron (@18thSDS) February 7, 2023
The military branch that conducts operations in outer space did not explain why Kosmos 2499 broke apart. However, one person on social media asked a good question.
Did they blow it up or failed to vent the tank and popped? At 1169km that junk is going to be there for a looooong time.
— Arcadiy Ivanov (@arcivanov) February 7, 2023
Business Insider and Space.com cited RussianSpaceWeb.com’s Anatoly Zak, who said Russia launched a rocket in late 2013, supposedly carrying three military communications satellites into orbit. But it wasn’t until space trackers found a fourth and very mysterious spacecraft (Kosmos 2499) that was also released into orbit.
Zak said the head of Roscosmos in 2014 assured world leaders that Kosmos 2499 wasn’t a “killer satellite.” Roscosmos never revealed the satellite’s mission.
As for space debris, Brian Weeden, an expert in space junk at the Secure World Foundation, told Ars Technica this is likely not a catastrophic event.