This Strange Sensor Russia Sent to the ISS Is Baffling US Military Experts

The Progress MS-07 spacecraft before launch. The mysterious sensor is the black object on the forward edge in the upper-right corner of the photo. Image: RKK Energia
„I think the appropriate reaction is ‚mild curiosity‘ rather than ‚worry.'“


A Russian spacecraft on a routine mission to the International Space Station (ISS) apparently carried a surprise payload: a secretive sensor that experts said could be related to a controversial military initiative.

The spacecraft, which the Russian space agency designated Progress MS-07, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan on October 12. The main mission of the unmanned Progress rockets is to haul supplies to the ISS.

After unloading the supplies, the station crew tosses its garbage into the now-empty Progress capsule. The craft separates from the station and, after a couple of days, tumbles back to Earth and burns up.

Russia often takes advantage of those extra couple of days to position small satellites or perform brief experiments unrelated to the space station. Progress MS-07, for example, carried a small data-relay satellite and a miniature robot that’s part of a Russian company’s social media campaign.

But Progress MS-07 also carried a mysterious sensor, one that might have important military implications. Anatoly Zak, an author and space expert, was among the first to notice the sensor in official photos provided by RKK Energia, the Russian company that manufactured the expendable Progress MS-07 spacecraft.

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