HomeWorldUS criticizes Russia for 'irresponsible' space missile test

US criticizes Russia for ‘irresponsible’ space missile test

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  • Russia shot down one of its own space satellites.
  • The United States strongly criticized the move.
  • Astronauts aboard the ISS had to take shelter aboard their return ships.

The United States denounced Russia on Monday for carrying out a “dangerous and irresponsible” missile attack that blew up one of its own satellites, creating a cloud of debris that forced the crew of the International Space Station to take evasive measures.

Washington was not informed in advance about the test, only the fourth to hit a spacecraft from the ground, and will speak with allies about how to respond, the officials said.

The move rekindles concerns about a growing space arms race, ranging from the development of satellites capable of diverting others out of orbit to laser weapons.

READ | Amazon seeks another 4,538 satellites to challenge Musk’s SpaceX

“The Russian Federation recklessly carried out a destructive test of a direct climb anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.

He added that the “dangerous and irresponsible test” had generated more than 1,500 pieces of traceable orbital debris and will likely create hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.

The crew aboard the orbital outpost, currently four Americans, one German, and two Russians, woke up and were first asked to close the station hatches and then take refuge in their return ships, the standard alarm procedure for “safe haven” in case of an emergency. that could force an evacuation.

‘Irresponsible and destabilizing action’

They made their way to the Dragon and Soyuz spacecraft at 02:00 Eastern Time (07:00 GMT) and stayed there for about two hours, NASA said. The ISS continues to pass near or through the cloud every 90 minutes.

In his forceful comments, Blinken said the danger was far from over and debris would continue to threaten satellites and activities on the ISS.

The United States was discussing its response with its partners, he added.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson added in a statement that he was “outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action.”

“With its long and historic history of manned space flight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only US and international astronauts associated with the ISS, but also its own cosmonauts,” as well as the Chinese “taikonauts” on board. from China’s space station, he said. .

The missile’s target was Cosmos 1408, a 1982 Soviet signals intelligence satellite that has been missing for several decades, according to space industry analysis company Seradata.

Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) are high-tech missiles owned by some nations.

India was the last to conduct a test on a target in 2019, creating hundreds of pieces of “space junk” heavily criticized by other powers, including the United States.

The United States shot down a satellite in 2008 in response to China demonstrating a similar knockout in 2007.

Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist, said: “The feeling among people in the space industry is that we already have too much debris in there; deliberately generating more is simply inexcusable.”

The first objects in the debris cloud should begin entering the atmosphere in a few months, but it could take up to 10 years before it completely disappears, he said.

Global influence

That could endanger what is an increasingly populated region of space known as “low Earth orbit.”

There are currently more than 4,500 satellites buzzing around the planet, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and companies like SpaceX plan to launch up to tens of thousands more, as the private space industry experiences rapid growth.

Russia is increasingly showing its muscles in space as it seeks to reassert its global influence under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.

In 2020, London and Washington accused Moscow of testing a “nesting doll” satellite that opened and launched a smaller spacecraft to stalk a US satellite.

Meanwhile, China is developing a weapon known as the Shijian-17, with a robotic arm capable of grabbing spacecraft.

“Both China and Russia are building more and more space in their military capabilities,” National Intelligence Director Avril Haines said at a space seminar in Washington last week.

She added:

They have directed energy weapons that allow them to essentially blind sensors on various satellites.

Despite these tensions, the United States and Russia have maintained strong space ties since the end of the Cold War, cooperating closely on the ISS, which they built together.

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