U.S. accuses Russia of testing anti-satellite weapon in space

Washington says it has proof that Moscow conducted a non-destructive test of an anti-satellite weapon.

July 24, 2020 06:17 am | Updated 10:31 pm IST - Washington

Photo for representation only.

Photo for representation only.

The U.S. and the U.K. on Thursday accused Russia of test-firing an anti-satellite weapon in space.

The U.S. warned that the threat against Washington's systems was “real, serious and increasing.”

U.S. Space Command said it “has evidence” that Moscow “conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon” on July 15.

“Last week’s test is another example that the threats to U.S. and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing,” the Thursday statement continued.

“Clearly this is unacceptable,” tweeted U.S. nuclear disarmament negotiator Marshall Billingslea, adding that it would be a “major issue” discussed next week in Vienna, where he is in talks on a successor to the New START treaty.

The treaty caps the nuclear warheads of the U.S. and Russia — the two Cold War-era superpowers.

The head of Britain’s Space Directorate, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, also reacted, tweeting that “actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space.”

Commenting on Friday on the accusations, the Russian Foreign Ministry insisted on Moscow's “commitment to obligations on the non-discriminatory use and study of space with peaceful aims”. “We call on our U.S. and British colleagues to show professionalism and instead of some propagandistic information attacks, sit down for talks,” the Ministry said.

The U.S. Space Command said the test consisted of Russia’s satellite called Cosmos 2543 injecting an object into orbit.

Russian state media has said that Cosmos-2543 had been deployed by another satellite, Cosmos-2542, which was launched on 25 of November 2019 by the Russian military. The Defence Ministry said the satellite is meant to “monitor the condition of Russian satellites,” but state daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta said it has the ability to “get information from somebody else’s satellites”.

The system is the same one that Space Command raised concerns about earlier this year, when it maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite, said General Jay Raymond, head of U.S. Space Command. “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 US and allied space assets at risk,” he said in a statement.

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