WASHINGTON — U.S. Space Command in a July 23 statement said it has proof that Russia on July 15 conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon.
U.S. Space Command said Russia “injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos-2543.”
Cosmos-2543 is the same satellite that earlier this year maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite, according to U.S. Space Command.
Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force, in February called out Russia for deploying an “inspector” satellite dubbed Cosmos-2542 that ejected a sub-satellite, Cosmos-2543. The latter was reportedly chasing USA 245, a classified imaging satellite owned by the National Reconnaissance Office.
Raymond again voiced concerns in April about Russia test firing a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile that he warned could threaten American satellites in low Earth orbit.
In a statement Raymond said the July 15 test 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 U.S. and allied space assets at risk.”
The U.S. State Department has criticized Russian satellite behaviors as “inconsistent with their stated mission and that these satellites displayed characteristics of a space-based weapon,” U.S. Space Command said.
Christopher Ford, U.S. assistant secretary of State performing the duties of the undersecretary for arms Control and international security, said in a statement that the latest test “highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control, with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program — both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry.”
The growing cat-and-mouse game in space is concerning because it could lead to escalation, warned space policy expert and consultant Laura Seward Forczyk.
“The problem isn’t only that Russia is continuing to test anti-satellite systems, even nondestructively,” Seward Forczyk commented on Twitter July 23. It’s worrisome because it puts pressure on the United States and other space powers to consider testing ASAT systems, she wrote. “It’s a dangerous feedback cycle.”