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US Space Command says Russia tested space weapon to take down satellites

GPS III Satellite, the newest generation of GPS satellites. (U.S. Air Force/Released)
July 23, 2020

The U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) said on Thursday it has evidence that Russia tested an anti-satellite weapon in space.

Russia deployed “a new object” into orbit from its satellite Cosmos 2542 on July 15, and that object remained in close proximity to another Russian satellite while demonstrating activities unlike Russia’s stated mission, SPACECOM said in a statement provided to American Military News.

“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 maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite,” Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations said. “This 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.”

Raymond said the U.S. is prepared to deter aggression and defend the U.S. and allies from hostile behavior in space.

In February, Raymond had said the Russian satellite moved toward an American satellite shortly after it entered orbit in November 2019, representing the first adversarial threat to an American satellite, Time Magazine reported.

At the time, Raymond noted the Russian satellite would come within 100 miles of the American satellite, and demonstrated “unusual and disturbing” behavior with the potential for a “dangerous situation.”

On Thursday, SPACECOM slammed Russia as hypocritical for its weapons test.

“This event 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,” said Dr. Christopher Ford, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State currently performing the duties of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.

Raymond had also called out Russia’s hypocrisy in April when Russia conducted a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test.

The Russian missile system demonstrated the capability of destroying low orbit satellites.

“Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Raymond said at the time. “The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the Nation, our allies and U.S. interests from hostile acts in space.”