The United States Space Command announced on early on the 23rd July that it has evidence that Russia has launched, orbited, and tested a space-based anti-satellite weapon. The United Kingdom’ Space Directorate also voiced their concern at Russia’s apparent militarisation of space.
What we know for certain is that according to the United States Space Command (USSC), Russia “injected a new object into orbit” on 15th July, from the Cosmos 2543 satellite. From there they conducted what they call a “non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon.” The USSC listed the object under catalog number 45915 which can be found at space-track.org.
The test was conducted in tandem with another Russian satellite, presumably the target. Russia released the new object close to the other satellite, as has been witnessed previously. The US Department of State has stated the following based on the observed this activity and noted that “these satellites displayed characteristics of a space-based weapon.”
The Department of State also went on to describe the actions the satellites performed were “inconsistent with their stated mission” and that the behavior examined was “hypocritical and concerning.”
The United States Space Force considers these recent actions as a threat and on the heels of another anti-satellite missile back in April, Space Force has determined that the trailing satellites are exhibiting characteristics of space weapons.
The United Kingdom has openly criticized the actions of the Russians by publically accusing the Kremlin of carrying out an anti-satellite weapon’s test in space and calling it “a threat to peace.”
The Russian anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) is the same satellite that was spotted earlier this year stalking United States satellite USA 245 which is a reconnaissance satellite. Cosmos 2543 was launched by the Russian’s space agency, ROSCOSMOS, from the Plesetsk cosmodrome on 25th November 2019. At the time, the launch was described as “part of Russian Space Forces” and “a large testing base.”
The Kremlin stated that the satellite would only be used to check up on other Russian satellites during its mission, at least according to the official statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense:
“The spacecraft, created on the basis of a unified multifunctional space platform, is launched into the target orbit from which the state of domestic satellites can be monitored.”
Commander and US Space Force Chief of Space Operations General John “Jay” Raymond stated that these recent actions only served as further evidence that Russia is continuing its efforts to employ weapons that would hold US and Allied space assets at risk.
While space still remains an officially “neutral” ground for all countries, recent developments in the aerospace industry have shown increased interest in ASAT weapons. Even the United States has tested such systems such as the Air-launched ASM-135 ASAT missile which was successfully tested by an F-15 Eagle in 1985, when the missile was launched at and destroyed the United States P78-1 Solwind astrophysics satellite in its orbit.