Russia has secretly tested anti-satellite weapon in SPACE, US Space Command says

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RUSSIA has enraged the west and raised the threat of a space war by test-firing a weapon designed to knock out enemy satellites.

The Kremlin’s military push to use weapons in space puts “US and Allied space assets at serious risk”, the US Space Command has warned — while its UK counterpart said it risked peace in Earth’s orbit.

The US Space Force, set up by Donald Trump last December, said it had “evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon”.

This is the first time the Americans have publicly accused the Kremlin of carrying out an anti-satellite weapons test in space.

It said that on July 15, an object was fired at speeds of 400mph into space from a spacecraft, Cosmos 2543, which itself was described as having “birthed” — like a Russian doll — from its mother satellite, Cosmos 2542.

This is the same satellite which was spotted earlier this year stalking the Pentagon’s spy satellite USA 245.

Russia’s space agency ROSCOSMOS has confirmed the satellite was launched by a Soyuz-2 rocket on November 25 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, a sprawling Russian Space Force launch site some 500 miles north of Moscow.

The Kremlin has claimed the July 15 event involved a small space vehicle that “inspected one of the national satellites from a close distance using special equipment”.

It added the “inspection” provided valuable information, which was transmitted to ground control.

But the US Space Force Command disputes this, claiming it was a space weapon test launch.

It said the craft’s threatening action was “similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system’s stated mission as an inspector satellite”.

US Space Force Chief of Space Operations, General John “Jay” Raymond, said: “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 manoeuvred near a US government satellite.

“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems.

“And [it’s] consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and Allied space assets at risk.”

Gen Raymond added the US and its allies such as the UK, were “ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our Allies and vital US interests from hostile acts in space”.

Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space — and risk causing debris

Dr Christopher Ford, the US assistant Secretary of State, said it highlighted “Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control”.

He accused Moscow of “aiming to restrict the capabilities of the US while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace programme — both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry”.

The US State Department raised concerns in 2018, and again this year, that Russian satellite behaviours were inconsistent with their stated mission.

It also warned that these satellites showed signs of a space-based weapon.

According to the department, Russia’s space conduct is “concerning”.

The head of the UK’s space directorate, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.

“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.

“We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

Brian Weeden, a space policy expert at the Secure World Foundation, which advocates for peaceful uses of outer space, said US and British concerns were justified.

He said: “I think they’re on to something.

“I, too, found this event very suspicious.”

Mr Weeden said an object separated from Cosmos 2543 at a speed of perhaps more than 400 miles per hour.

And it is very similar to an incident back in 2017 where another Russian satellite fired a small object at high speed.

Henry Hertzfeld, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said the July 15 incident highlights rapid advances in space technology — amid worsening US relations with Russia and China on terra firma.

He said: “So should be we concerned? I think that’s legitimate.

“What the intent of the eventual use of those technologies is, and whether they would be used as weapons against our assets in space, that’s speculation.”

In a space strategy document published last month, the Pentagon asserted China and Russia present the greatest strategic because of their “development, testing, and deployment of counter-space capabilities and their associated military doctrine for employment in conflict extending to space”.

It added: “China and Russia each have weaponized space as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness and challenge our freedom of operation in space.”

Air Vice-Marshal @HarvSmyth, director of the UK’s Space Directorate, has responded to a recent Russian satellite test in space: pic.twitter.com/zGdGwCemmR

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