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US Accuses Russia of Launching Anti-Satellite Weapon Into Orbit


Thursday, May 23, 2024

The US claims a newly launched Russian satellite is a space weapon from the Kremlin meant to take out other satellites.

A Defense Department spokesman briefly discussed the alleged Russian space weapon after a US ambassador brought up the claims during a United Nations meeting on Monday. The Russian satellite "is likely a counter-space weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit," Major General Patrick Ryder said during the Pentagon press briefing.

"Russia deployed this new counter-space weapon into the same orbit as a US government satellite," he added. "And so assessments further indicate characteristics resembling previously deployed counter-space payloads from 2019 and 2022."

Ryder didn't elaborate or mention what this new satellite might be carrying. But last week, Russian space agency Roscosmos announced it had launched a mysterious spacecraft on behalf of the country's Ministry of Defense.

The Russian satellite is now in the same "orbital plane" as a US government satellite, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell. "At the moment the closest approaches the two satellites make are at a distance of several hundred km, although I do expect K-2576 (the Russian satellite) to make orbital changes that will reduce that distance," he said in a tweet.

US intelligence is concerned about the Russian government detonating nuclear weapons in space to disable satellites. Earlier this month, a US defense official told lawmakers that such a nuclear blast would release an electromagnetic pulse and disrupt orbiting satellites with a surge of radiation.

"Several analysts do believe that a detonation in space of the right magnitude and in the right location could render low-Earth orbit, for example, unusable for some period of time," said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb.

In 2021, Russia also used a missile test to take down one of its own satellites, which caused debris to fill parts of low-Earth orbit temporarily.

Such attacks pose a particular danger to SpaceX's satellite internet system, Starlink, which now has about 6,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit. The Kremlin has repeatedly threatened to attack Starlink, citing its role in supplying internet access to Ukraine and over claims that the US is using the satellite technology to militarize space.

However, the Russian government is denying it launched an anti-satellite weapon last week. "I don’t think that we should respond to any fake news injected by Washington,” a Russian deputy foreign minister told reporters.

"We have always spoken consistently against placing attack weapons in near-Earth orbit. It is not accidental that Russia, together with a whole number of other states, promotes the initiative of not placing weapons in space first," the official added.

By: DocMemory
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