- 23 Jul 2020, 19:18
RUSSIA has enraged the west by test-firing a weapon designed to knock out other satellites and “threaten the peaceful use of space”.
The Kremlin’s military push to use weapons in space puts “US and Allied space assets at serious risk”, the US Space Command has warned.
Researchers said they have “evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon.”
They said: “On July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543.”
This is the same Russian satellite which was spotted earlier this year stalking spy satellite USA 245 – which snaps intelligence photos of Earth for the Pentagon.
On its website, Vladimir Putin’s space agency ROSCOSMOS says its satellite was launched on November 25 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, a sprawling launch site 500 miles north of Moscow, which it described as “part of Russian Space Forces” and “a large testing base”.
At the time, the Kremlin said it was only used to check up on other Russian satellites.
“The spacecraft, created on the basis of a unified multifunctional space platform, is launched into the target orbit from which the state of domestic satellites can be monitored,” according to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defence.”The optical equipment of the spacecraft also allows you to take pictures of the Earth’s surface.”
But the Space Command today said the craft’s threatening action was “similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system’s stated mission as an inspector satellite”.
Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, Commander and US Space Force Chief of Space Operations, said: “The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia manoeuvred near a US government satellite.”
He added: “This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems.
“And [it’s] consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and Allied space assets at risk.”
Gen. Raymond said the US and its Allies were “ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our Allies and vital US interests from hostile acts in space.”
The US State Department raised concerns in 2018, and again this year, that Russian satellite behaviours were inconsistent with their stated mission.
It also warned that these satellites showed signs of a space-based weapon.
According to the department, Russia’s space conduct is “concerning”.
Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, The Head Of The UK’s Space Directorate
Space Command said: “Last week’s test is another example that the threats to US and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing.”
Space Command is America’s combatant hub for space matters.
Dr Christopher Ford, the US Assistant Secretary of State, said it highlighted “Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control”.
He accused Moscow of “aiming to restrict the capabilities of the US while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace programme – both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry.”