By Colin Themarines – 1 August, 2022

 

Gif source: https://gfycat.com/comfortablewarpedchupacabra

“Let’s go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all this to blow over.”

 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A Russian data relay satellite appears to have risen from the dead.

 

Once thought to have failed on-orbit, Garpun 11L (also known as Kosmos 2473) has tumbled, uncontrolled, since roughly June of 2020. Nearly two years later, it’s stopped dead in its tracks around a longitude of 160° West and increased its inclination from 1.9° to 3.2°. The reason for Garpun 11L’s alleged failure is unknown, but this change in activity brings into question how long a satellite could play possum.

 

Roughly translating to “Harpoon” in English, the Garpun satellite family (currently comprised of two satellites) is operated by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Mission details are scant, but Garpun satellites likely relay data from spacecraft in LEO to Russian ground stations using secure communication links, enabling real-time data transfer. The mission of these satellites also presents the of possibility that they could be used for SIGINT collection.

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