Russia Conducts Space-Based Anti-Satellite Weapons Test, Says U.S. Space Command

The U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) said in a statement it has evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon.

According to USSPACECOM, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543, currently Satellite Catalog Number 45915 in, on July 15. This object was released in proximity to another Russian satellite, which is similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system’s stated mission as an inspector satellite.

“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 maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite,” said Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. “This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk.”

The USSPACECOM statement said that the U.S. State Department raised concerns in 2018, and again this year, that “Russian satellite behaviors were inconsistent with their stated mission and that these satellites displayed characteristics of a space-based weapon”. According to the Department of State, this behavior is “hypocritical and concerning”.

“This event highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control, with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program — both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry,” said Dr. Christopher Ford, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State currently performing the duties of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.

“The United States, in coordination with our allies, is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the Nation, our allies and vital U.S. interests from hostile acts in space,” Raymond concluded.

In April, Russia conducted a direct ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test. This test was also announced by USSPACECOM which said it tracked the test.

The other most recent publicized anti-satellite test was conducted by India. During the 27 March 2019 test dubbed “Mission Shakti”, a DRDO-developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor Missile – called the Prithvi Defence Vehicle Mk II (PDV-II) – was launched from the DRDO’s testing range on the Dr. Abdul Kalam Island (formerly known as Wheeler Island), an island off the coast of Odisha state located in eastern India. The interceptor then engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite – Microsat-R – in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 300km in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode. The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.

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