US and UK militaries on Thursday accused Russia of conducting a space-based anti-satellite weapons test earlier this month, saying that a Russian satellite released an object capable of targeting a satellite.
“U.S. Space Command has evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon,” the command said in a statement, saying that on July 15, Russia “injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543,” a Russian satellite that has been in orbit since 2019.
The statement added that the new “object” was released in proximity to another Russian satellite, activity that the command said was “inconsistent with the system’s stated mission as an inspector satellite.”
“Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends. We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing,” UK’s Space Directorate, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth said.
The accusation comes amid tensions over a range of issues. Recently, United States and United Kingdom accused Russia of cyber-attacks on organizations involved in coronavirus vaccine development Also a recent report claimed that Russia offered cash rewards to Taliban to target US troops in Afghanistan.
While the US has previously accused Moscow of testing anti-satellite weapons this is the first time the US has publicly accused Russia of testing an “on orbit” weapon, that is a weapon that is based in space.
“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,” Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Commander of US Space Command and US Space Force Chief of Space Operations said in a statement.
“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 added.
The US also accused Russia of conducting an anti-satellite missile test in April.
Days prior to the new Russian space-based weapons test the State Department said that it was planning on holding a “Space Security Exchange” meeting with Russian representatives at the end of this month