“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” State Department assistant secretary Yleem Poblete told a conference this week. “But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development — particularly, when considered in concert with statements by Russia’s Space Force Commander.”

She said its manoeuvres indicated it could be an anti-satellite weapon.

And this has dire implications: Vital services such as the internet, television, telephone and GPS all rely on satellites. As does a swath of other services — such as weather forecasting and firefighting.