The astronomer believes this could have occurred “through deliberate destruction, accidental battery or prop event, or through an accidental debris collision”.
Dr McDowell added: “I lean to accident since it is my guess the satellite has been dead for several years, but it’s not certain.”
Dr McDowell used to work at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
The expert now works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The space expert later concluded propellant remaining in one of the craft’s fuel tanks may have led to the Kosmos-2491 explosion.