Home / Space force / U.S. officials say Russia tested a new anti-satellite weapon – Spaceflight Now

U.S. officials say Russia tested a new anti-satellite weapon – Spaceflight Now

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File photograph of Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, head of U.S. Area Command and Chief of Area Operations on the U.S. Area Power. Credit score: U.S. Air Power

U.S. and British authorities officers mentioned Thursday they’ve proof that Russia examined a space-based anti-satellite weapon, citing an occasion July 15 when analysts say a Russian navy satellite tv for pc launched a mysterious projectile into orbit at excessive velocity.

There isn’t a signal that the projectile caught one other satellite tv for pc in orbit, however the object’s launch from the Russian navy’s Kosmos 2543 spacecraft occurred because it maneuvered close to one other Russian satellite tv for pc.

The habits is in line with a take a look at of a brand new anti-satellite functionality, U.S. Area Command mentioned Thursday.

“U.S. Area Command has proof that Russia performed a non-destructive take a look at of a space-based anti-satellite weapon,” navy officers mentioned in a press release. “Russia launched this object in proximity to a different Russian satellite tv for pc, which has similarities to on-orbit exercise performed by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system’s acknowledged mission as an inspector satellite tv for pc.”

The Russian Protection Ministry mentioned final 12 months that the Kosmos 2543 satellite tv for pc is a part of a system designed to method and monitor the situation of different Russian spacecraft in orbit. Kosmos 2543 was deployed by one other Russian navy satellite tv for pc — designated Kosmos 2542 — inside a couple of weeks after launch on a Soyuz 2-1v rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in far northern Russia.

The circumstances of the launch and subsequent launch of a daughter satellite tv for pc in orbit bore similarities to a Russian navy mission that launched in June 2017 aboard the identical sort of rocket, then later deployed two sub-satellites. Russian protection officers described the mission as an illustration of an inspector probe succesful approaching and imaging different objects in area.

The brand new inspector mission that launched final November has exhibited related habits, in accordance with U.S. navy orbital monitoring information obtainable within the public area. However as a substitute of maneuvering close to different Russian satellites, the Kosmos 2542 spacecraft adjusted its orbit to sync up with the orbit of a U.S. authorities spy satellite tv for pc designated USA 245.

The labeled USA 245 spacecraft belongs to the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace, and it’s believed to hold a robust Earth-facing telescope to take sharp, high-resolution images for evaluation by U.S. intelligence businesses.

In the meantime, the Kosmos 2543 satellite tv for pc began approaching one other Russian navy spacecraft in orbit over the previous few weeks earlier than releasing its personal sub-satellite July 15 in what U.S. officers described as an anti-satellite weapon take a look at.

“The Russian satellite tv for pc system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons take a look at is similar satellite tv for pc system that we raised considerations about earlier this 12 months, when Russia maneuvered close to a U.S. authorities satellite tv for pc,” mentioned Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, head of U.S. Area Command and the U.S. Area Power’s Chief of Area Operations, in a press release Thursday. “That is additional proof of Russia’s persevering with efforts to develop and take a look at space-based methods, and in line with the Kremlin’s printed navy doctrine to make use of weapons that maintain U.S. and allied area property in danger.”

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer on the Harvard-Smithsonian Heart for Astrophysics who tracks international area exercise, mentioned an evaluation of publicly obtainable satellite tv for pc orbit information means that the Kosmos 2543 launched the mysterious object July 15 at a relative velocity of greater than 400 mph, or about 700 kilometers per hour.

“That’s a projectile being fired, not a satellite tv for pc deployment,” tweeted Brian Weeden, director of program planning and technical advisor for the Safe World Basis. “That mentioned, it’s additionally removed from a conclusive weapons take a look at. I’d put it within the worrisome class.”

The projectile was tracked in an orbit between 300 and 500 miles (500 and 800 kilometers) above Earth.

The video under exhibits the Kosmos 2542 satellite tv for pc’s launch Nov. 25, 2019, on a Soyuz 2-1v rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

A projectile launched from a satellite tv for pc could possibly be used as a kinetic weapon towards one other spacecraft. Final 12 months, British engineers demonstrated the usage of a harpoon in orbit that could possibly be used to assist filter out area junk.

The U.S. State Division referred to as the Russian navy exercise as “hypocritical and regarding.”

“This occasion highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer area arms management, with which Moscow goals to limit the capabilities of the USA whereas clearly having no intention of halting its personal counterspace program — each ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would look like precise in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry,” mentioned Christopher Ford, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State at the moment performing the duties of the Beneath Secretary for Arms Management and Worldwide Safety.

UK navy officers additionally expressed concern with the Russian “inspector” satellite tv for pc system.

“We’re involved by the style by which Russia examined one in all its satellites by launching a projectile with the traits of a weapon,” mentioned Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smith, head of the UK’s Area Directorate. “Actions of this sort threaten the peaceable use of area and threat inflicting particles that might pose a risk to satellites and the area methods on which the world relies upon. We name on Russia to keep away from any additional such testing. We additionally urge Russia to proceed to work constructively with the UK and different companions to encourage accountable habits in area.”

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Russian Ministry of Protection mentioned the July 15 occasion concerned “a small area car” that inspected one other Russian satellite tv for pc “from an in depth distance utilizing particular tools.”

U.S. navy officers protested in April what they mentioned was a take a look at of a Russian anti-satellite missile. The take a look at of a Russian Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile didn’t goal a spacecraft through the April take a look at, however U.S. officers mentioned the system is designed to destroy satellites in orbit.

The USA, China and India have additionally demonstrated ground-based anti-satellite missiles. The U.S. navy has additionally launched its personal inspector satellites into geosynchronous orbit greater than 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.

The U.S. Air Power has additionally carried out unannounced satellite tv for pc deployments from its X-37B spaceplane in orbit, however none exhibited the peculiar habits of the Russian Kosmos 2542/2543 system.

“Final week’s take a look at is one other instance that the threats to U.S. and allied area methods are actual, severe, and growing,” U.S. Area Command mentioned in a press release.

The U.S. Area Power was established in December as a brand new navy department, taking up a lot of the Air Power’s area missions and obligations.

“Russia’s improvement and testing of orbital weapons highlights the significance of building the U.S. Area Power as a brand new department of the armed forces and the U.S. Area Command because the nation’s unified combatant command for area,” navy officers mentioned Thursday.

Email the writer.

Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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