Russia destroyed a satellite in space with a missile
creating a dangerous blast of debris
Early Monday, Russia used an anti-satellite missile to destroy a satellite. The United States criticised the test, claiming that it resulted in harmful debris fields. The rebuke came after the International Space Station crew was forced to take cover due to a fear of space debris.
The US Department of State reported Monday afternoon that Russia destroyed one of its satellites in a test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile early Monday.
At a press briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Russia carried out the “destructive” test “recklessly,” resulting in more than 1,500 pieces of larger, trackable space debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of debris that “significantly increase the risk to astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station.”
“Russia’s reckless and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term viability of our outer space,” he continued, “and clearly indicates that Russia’s claims to oppose space weaponization are deceptive and hypocritical.”
The US will cooperate with its allies and partners to respond appropriately, according to a department spokesperson.
The Defense Department shares these fears, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who stated that “the most immediate concern is the debris itself,” which might pose a threat to the ISS.
These comments come after US Space Command acknowledged a “debris-generating event” earlier in the day in a statement.
“We are aware of a debris-generating event in outer space,” said to the US Space Command, which added that it “is actively trying to define the debris field and will continue to assure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted.”
According to The War Zone, Seradata, a private space tracking and data analysis organization, the Russian ASAT test appears to have hit the dead Soviet satellite Kosmos-1408, a Tselina-D satellite launched in the early 1980s as part of a constellation of intelligence gathering assets.
Anti-satellite weapons tests exacerbate an already serious problem. For instance, The New York Times reported last week that the the International Space Station had to maneuver to avoid a piece of space junk generated by a 2007 anti-satellite weapon test conducted by China.
US Space Command has been tracking ASAT tests from Russia over the last couple of years. In 2020, US Space Command reported two tests of Russia’s ASAT technology, known as Nudol. However, both tests did not seem to actually destroy any targets in space.
Monday’s test was not Russia’s first anti-satellite weapons test. The country has conducted others, including a space-based test last year in which a Russian satellite released a projectile. The head of US Space Command said at the time that “it has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”
Private space tracking company LeoLabs confirmed on Twitter that it had observed multiple objects that are now in the location of an old Russian satellite called Kosmos 1408, which has now been confirmed to be the target of the ASAT test.
Following the briefings from the State Department and the Pentagon, US Space Command released a longer statement, indicating that the ASAT test destroyed COSMOS-1408, a Soviet Tselina-D espionage satellite launched in the early 1980s.
In a statement, US Army Gen. James Dickinson, the command’s head, said, “Russia has displayed a willful disrespect for the security, safety, and stability, as well as the long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations.”
“Russia’s DA-ASAT debris will continue to pose a hazard to activities in outer space for years to come, endangering satellites and space missions,” he warned.
The United States’ concerns that the anti-satellite weapon test, which comprised a ground-launched missile meant to destroy satellites in low-earth orbit, may endanger the ISS and the seven people on board, appear to be well-founded.
The crew of the International Space Station was compelled to take refuge in their Dragon and Soyuz evacuation spacecraft early Monday morning due to the rapid emergence of potentially catastrophic space debris. The US administration did not explicitly claim that the debris threatening the ISS was a result of the Russian test, but the timing of these events is noteworthy.
Tens of millions of particles of space trash orbit the Earth, and when they collide, more debris blasts forth at great speeds. These little and huge pieces endanger systems like the International Space Station and other human space activities.