Russia on Friday dismissed accusations from the United States and Britain that it had tested an anti-satellite weapon in space as “propaganda”.
Moscow responded after the United States Space Command on Thursday accused Russia of test-firing an anti-satellite weapon in space and warned the threat against US systems was “real, serious and increasing”.
Russia testing anti-satellite weapon
The head of Britain’s Space Directorate, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, also reacted, tweeting that “actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space.”
The Russian foreign ministry insisted on Moscow’s “commitment to obligations on the non-discriminatory use and study of space with peaceful aims.
“We call on our US and British colleagues to show professionalism and instead of some propagandistic information attacks, sit down for talks,” the ministry said in a statement.
The US said that Russia conducted a “non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon”.
New York Gazette ™ Russia Tests Space-Based Weaponry: https://t.co/6KfVYQe0JU – Russia successfully launched a new space-based anti-satellite weapon system last week, https://t.co/Q7hdAmO31k reported Thursday. On July 15, the Kremlin launched a new… https://t.co/CehsO8Oznd pic.twitter.com/dnmsBKetKJ
— George Mentz JD MBA CWM (@GeorgeMentz) July 24, 2020
“Clearly this is unacceptable,” tweeted US nuclear disarmament negotiator Marshall Billingslea, adding that it would be a “major issue” discussed next week in Vienna, where he is in talks on a successor to the New START treaty.
The treaty caps the nuclear warheads of the US and Russia — the two Cold War-era superpowers.
The Russian foreign ministry said tests carried out by the country’s defence ministry on July 15 “did not create a threat for other space equipment and most importantly, did not breach any norms or principles of international law.”
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It in turn accused the US and Britain of moves to develop anti-satellite weaponry.
Inspector satellites as a counter by US and UK?
The US and Britain “naturally keep silent about their own efforts,” it said, claiming the countries had “programmes on the possible use of ‘inspector satellites’ and ‘repair satellites’ as counter-satellite weapons.”
Commenting earlier Friday on the accusations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia supports “full demilitarisation of space and not basing any type of weapons in space.”
The US Space Command said the test consisted of Russia’s satellite called Cosmos 2543 injecting an object into orbit.
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Russian state media reported in December that a satellite called Cosmos-2542, which was launched in November 2019 by the Russian military, ejected another smaller satellite once in space.
The Russian defence ministry said the inspector-satellite was meant to “monitor the condition of Russian satellites,” but state daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta said it could also “get information from somebody else’s satellites.”
The system is the same one that Space Command raised concerns about earlier this year, when it manoeuvred near a US government satellite, said General Jay Raymond, head of US Space Command.
In a statement today, Raymond claimed: "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."
— Michael de Yoanna (@mdy1) July 23, 2020
“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 US and allied space assets at risk,” Raymond said in a statement.
It is the latest example of Russian satellites behaving in a manner “inconsistent with their stated mission,” the Space Command statement added.
“This event highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control,” said Christopher Ford, a US assistant secretary of state for arms control.
Read more: US, Russia in an exercise in futility as talks start
The statement also came as China launched a rover to Mars on Thursday, a journey coinciding with a similar US mission as the powers take their rivalry into deep space.
US and Russia meeting: security in outer space
A U.S. delegation will meet with Russian officials on July 27 to discuss security in space for the first time in seven years amid alarm in Washington over Moscow’s latest test of an anti-satellite weapon.
“Our hope is that this meeting will allow us to explore ways to increase security and stability in outer space as well as to advance the cause of developing norms of responsible behavior,” Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford told a press conference.
Ford likened the purpose of the U.S.-Russia space dialogue to attempts to create acceptable rules of behavior in cyberspace.
Read more: Russia hypersonic weapons still ahead of the game?
Objects in space are moving at fast speeds, meaning any collision between a small projectile and satellite will cause major damage, Ford said. “There is no such thing as a fender bender up there,” he added.
The United States has also been holding bilateral meetings on space security with China, Ford said. He said space-security meetings in the future could be trilateral or include even more countries.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk