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‘Irresponsible’ Russia Shoots Down Satellite, Generates Debris Threatening International Space Station
IN SPACE - MAY 23: In this handout image provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, the International Space Station and the docked space shuttle Endeavour orbit Earth during Endeavour's final sortie on May 23, 2011 in Space. Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli captured the first-ever images of an orbiter docked to the International Space Station from the viewpoint of a departing vessel as he returned to Earth in a Soyuz capsule.
Paolo Nespoli – ESA/NASA via Getty Images

According to the U.S. Space Command, Russia shot down a satellite in orbit over the weekend, leaving debris that could pose a risk to the International Space Station in an act being described as “irresponsible.” The decision by Russia could not only inflame tensions between Russia and the United States, but between various nations in the ongoing space race.

Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile on Nov. 15, 2021, Moscow Standard Time, that struck a Russian satellite [COSMOS 1408] and created a debris field in low-Earth orbit,” announced U.S. Space Command in a statement. “The test so far has generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.”

“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander. “The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.”

According to an initial assessment, “the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries’ satellites.”

“USSPACECOM continues to monitor the trajectory of the debris and will work to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to safeguard their on-orbit activities if impacted by the debris cloud, a service the United States provides to the world, to include Russia and China,” the agency said.

“Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of space by the United States and its allies and partners,” Dickinson added. “Russia’s tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations.”

“We are actively working to characterize the debris field and will continue to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted,” the agency said in a statement provided to Fox News. “We are also in the process of working with the interagency, including the State Department and NASA, concerning these reports and will provide an update in the near future.” 

According to Politico, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that Russia had “recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites.”

Price said that the Russian test “has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable, orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations.”

“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of our outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” Price said. “The United States will work with our allies and partners to respond to Russia’s irresponsible act.”

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Russia failed to warn the U.S. in advance, and described it as an “irresponsible act.” U.S. officials have said that they will not “tolerate” this “kind of activity” from Russia, but have yet to explain what substantive steps can be taken to curb future acts of reckless aggression.

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