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Space

Russia Accused Of 'Weaponising Space' After Anti-Satellite Missile Test

The US Space Command said Russia has tested a missile system that could destroy satellites in low orbit.

Earth from outer space

Russia has been accused by the chief of the US Space Command of continuing to "weaponise space" after launching an anti-satellite missile.

According to the US Space Command, the direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile is "capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit" and has been tested "multiple times".

It warned if the weapon was tried out on satellites or used operationally, it could cause "a large debris field", endangering commercial satellites and polluting the space domain.

US Army General James Dickinson, US Space Command Commander, said: "Russia publicly claims it is working to prevent the transformation of outer space into a battlefield, yet at the same time Moscow continues to weaponise space by developing and fielding on-orbit and ground-based capabilities that seek to exploit US reliance on space-based systems."

General Dickinson said Russia’s "persistent testing" of systems like the DA-ASAT demonstrates "threats" to American and allied space systems.

He added the United States stands "ready and committed" to deter aggression and defend both the US and their allies from "hostile acts in space".

US Space Command said the DA-ASAT is one of two "space weapons" to have been demonstrated by Russia. 

The second is a co-orbital ASAT, a space-based weapon system, which demonstrated an on-orbit kinetic weapon in 2017 and in 2020, according to US Space Command.

"Russia has made space a warfighting domain by testing space-based and ground-based weapons intended to target and destroy satellites," General Dickinson said.

"This fact is inconsistent with Moscow’s public claims that Russia seeks to prevent conflict in space.

"Space is critical to all nations. It is a shared interest to create the conditions for a safe, stable, and operationally sustainable space environment."

Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth, Head of the UK's Space Directorate, wrote on Twitter that the Russian missile test was "deeply concerning".

He warned: "Consequences of miscalculations and accidents have the potential to be catastrophic. We continue to ask Russia to engage in UN dialogue on responsible space behaviours."

It is not the first time Russia has been accused of testing weapons in space.

Earlier this year, Russia dismissed US and British claims that it tested an anti-satellite weapon in space, and declared that the accusations served to justify Washington’s own plans to deploy weapons in orbit.

Cover image: A library image of the Earth seen from outer space (Picture: NASA).