Russian anti-satellite rocket puts astronauts at risk

The US State Department said Russia tested an anti-satellite rocket on Monday in a “destructive” move that created debris that put astronauts on the International Space Station at risk.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, ministry spokesman Nate Price said Russia had previously “recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a flying anti-satellite missile.” straight and against one of its own satellites”.

Price said the test produced more than 1,500 pieces of “trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller orbital debris” that threatened those working at the International Space Station and “flight operations.” into another human dimension”.

“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of outer space and makes it clear that statements against Russia’s weaponization of space are meaningless and unwarranted,” he said. hypocrisy,” he said, adding that the US would work with allies and partners to respond.

US Army General James Dickinson, head of US Space Command, added: “Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the region. space for all countries. Debris generated by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to space activities for many years to come.

The test comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia after Washington last week publicly warned Moscow against the invasion of Ukraine, where officials became alarmed by the buildup of up to 114,000 Russian troops on its borders.

This is not the first time the states have tested rockets on satellites. During the Cold War, the United States and Russia designed and tested anti-satellite weapons. Such missiles could theoretically shoot down enemy intelligence and communications control satellites, and threaten to turn space into a war zone.

More recently, China and India have also been testing aspects of anti-satellite systems. In 2007, China drew international condemnation when it blew up one of its own broken satellites, creating more than 35,000 pieces of debris. A recent Rand Corporation report described the event as “the largest debris generation incident to date”.

Governments are increasingly concerned about the problem of space debris, as debris as small as fingernails have the potential to cause massive damage to orbiting spacecraft. Currently, there are nearly 30,000 objects in orbit that are regularly tracked, but are too small to be tracked by an additional 1m.

Many in the space industry are openly calling for international cooperation on new rules to regulate behavior in space as the world launches a record number of satellites into low-Earth orbit. Lower launch costs and cheaper satellites have enabled private companies to develop commercial space-based businesses such as satellite broadband or earth observation.

But with SpaceX only hoping to launch more than 40,000 satellites, closely followed by Amazon and dozens of others, many in the industry are increasingly concerned about the risk of a collision that generates more debris that could threaten the sustainability of the planet. stability of space.

The “Kessler syndrome” model outlines a disaster scenario in which debris from a collision sets off a chain reaction of collisions, ultimately closing off safe access to space.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics who tracks space activity, said on Twitter: “I condemn China’s 2007 test, China’s 2008 test. Ky, India’s 2019 test and I condemn this too. Debris-generating anti-satellite tests are a bad idea and should never be conducted.”

Mike Rogers, the most senior Republican on the US House of Representatives armed services committee, called reports of the Russian test “disturbing” and said such events were “politically correct”. exactly why we created the Space Command and created the Space Force.”

“Space has become a war zone,” he said. “The Biden administration must push back on rapid defense modernization with a focus on space. I fear that this test, like China’s 2007 anti-satellite test, will impact space for many years to come.”


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