WASHINGTON – An anti-satellite weapons test by Russia against one of its own targets has generated debris that is a risk to astronauts on the International Space Station and other activities in outer space, the US State Department said on Monday (Nov 15).
Experts say weapons that shatter satellites pose a space hazard by creating clouds of fragments that can collide with other objects, setting off a chain reaction of projectiles through the Earth’s orbit.
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardises the long-term sustainability of … outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s (claims) to oppose the weaponisation of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
The Russian missile generated more than 1,500 pieces of “trackable orbital debris,” Price added.
At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby said the most immediate concern was the debris but the test showed the need for norms in space.
The Russian military and ministry of defence were not immediately available for comment.
The United States performed the first anti-satellite tests in 1959, when satellites were rare and new.
Last April Russia carried out another test of an anti-satellite missile as officials have said that space will increasingly become an important domain for warfare.
In 2019, India shot down one of its own satellites in low-Earth orbit with a ground-to-space missile.
The US military is increasingly dependent on satellites to determine what it does on the ground, guiding munitions with space-based lasers and satellites, as well as using such assets to monitor for missile launches and track its forces.
These tests have also raised questions about the long-term sustainability of space operations essential to a huge range of commercial activities, including banking and GPS services.