News and Analysis

Russia Shoots Down Satellite In Space Using Missile, Debris Threatens International Space Station: Reports
A rocket launches from a S-400 missile system at the Ashuluk military base in Southern Russia on September 22, 2020 during the "Caucasus-2020" military drills gathering China, Iran, Pakistan and Myanmar troops, along with ex-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. - Up to 250 tanks and around 450 infantry combat vehicles and armoured personnel carriers will take part in the September 21 to 26 land and naval exercises that will involve 80,000 people including support staff.

Russia shot down a satellite in space on Monday, marking the first time Russia has shown the ability to shoot down objects in space using weapon systems on earth.

“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,” U.S. Space Command said 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.”

U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander, said that the strike showed a “deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations.”

Dickinson said that the leftover debris from the strike would pose a threat to space activities for years, potentially decades, as numerous actions will need to be taken in an effort to avoid collisions.

“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.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to the strike in a statement, writing: “We condemn Russia’s reckless test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against its own satellite, creating space debris that risks astronauts’ lives, the integrity of the International Space Station, and the interests of all nations.”

The test comes as Russia has shown increased aggression on multiple fronts in recent months, including a build up of troops on the Ukrainian border.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) called out the Biden administration earlier this month, demanding that it down more to counter Russian aggression, especially after the administration lifted sanctions on a Russian pipeline.

Portman said in part:

Since the announcement by President Biden to waive the congressionally-mandated sanctions on Nord Stream 2, Russia has used its energy resources as a weapon, both to extract geopolitical concessions and to put immense pressure on Ukrainians. As recently as October 29, Russia announced a halt to its exports of anthracite to Ukraine, even as Russia has increased exports of this commodity to Asia and other European countries. Ukraine’s supply of heating resources are already low given higher than expected demand and lower domestic production. It is clear that the Biden administration’s decision to allow Nord Stream 2 to become operational, has allowed Russian to use energy as a weapon, and the situation is set to get worse as Russia’s market share of European gas exports has increased to more than a third. While Ukraine is on the front lines of facing Russian malign influence, this is truly a problem for the whole of Europe.


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