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Russia confirms and defends anti-satellite test

Russia today confirmed that it had done the anti-satellite missile test earlier this week that destroyed one of its defunct satellites and produced a cloud of space junk.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence also issued a Russian-language statement defending the test. The minister-general of the army, Sergei Shoigu, said that the test was successful and that “the resulting fragments do not pose any threat to space activities,” according to a machine-generated translation to English.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that the test created a cloud of space debris made up of over 15,000 objects, calling it a threat to astronauts and cosmonauts, and space activities of all countries. The debris could pose a threat for years to come, experts have said. The space station’s crew had to shelter in their return ships on Monday when the debris cloud was first detected.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos wrote on Twitter Monday that the space debris cloud “has moved away from the ISS orbit”, which is roughly 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. The space debris tracker LeoLabs estimates the debris cloud is at 273 to 323 miles (440 to 520 km) in altitude. However, “the station is in the green zone,” Roscosmos added.

The Russian claim that the debris at present poses no threat to ISS could very well be true. The trouble is that it appeared to have posed a threat initially, and will likely be a problem in the future. As a signatory of the Outer Space Treaty, Russia was required to avoid such a situation, and chose not to.

The article at the link notes similar tests by China (2007), the U.S. (2008), and India (2019). Of all these anti-satellite tests, only the U.S. targeted a satellite in an orbit so low that the debris posed no threat to operating satellites or manned spacecraft, and was also quickly pulled Earthward to burn up in the atmosphere. India chose a higher satellite whose debris posed less threat, but took longer to burn up and was initially of some concern.

China and Russia could have done the same thing. They did not, and their irresponsibility has badly worsened a problem that already was considered a serious concern.


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  • Joe

    We only on side plays fair, it will generally lose. In this case we could render space travel near impossible. Certain someones (Russia, China) needs to wake up.

  • JhonB

    China needs to steal the plans for Star Treks “tractor beam” and give it to SpaceX to build. This will solve the problem.

  • Kyle #2

    Is there any relation between altitude and difficulty to hit? If you are not confident your system will be successful then you hit the easiest target. A success might upset other countries, but a miss will have Putin turning you into an ice block under Lubyanka Square

  • Questioner

    In defense of Putin!

    “Putin ‘is right’ in claiming the West is destroying itself through woke politics”

  • John

    What’s the value in blasting satellites in low earth orbit?

    GPS and at least some military communication satellites are geostationary.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Some GNSS satellites are geostationary, some are geosynchronous and GPS itself is in orbits about half way to geo. All are well above LEO

  • Alton

    John the lower a photo image satellite is the higher the resolution of the image with the same camera optics. Thus most are flown at 500 km or lower.
    The ISS orbits roughly at 400 I’m.

  • Star Wars not Star Trek.

  • Jay

    I know the Chinese have stated plans for a 13,000 internet satellite constellation with altitudes between 500 and 1500km. China has stated that their citizens cannot use Starlink and Oneweb, but I wonder if some are being smuggled in or homegrown knockoff dishs start appearing. The PRC gets mad, a “scientific satellite” accidentally blows up around 550km, the common altitude of the Starlink satellites, and causes a disruption to service. But, look customers there is Xi-Net, the affordable satellite internet provider endorsed by Facebook, Google, Mao, and Zuckerburg himself!
    I am throwing out a hypothetical situation with China putting their satellites in a higher orbit to avoid debris by causing problems in a lower orbit. I believe the PRC would do it based on what we we call the “Firedrake Jammer” radio station that they use to drown out dissenting voices on the air, religious broadcasts, VoA, and the occasional ham radio band with their classic Chinese opera music. You guys can listen to examples of it on Youtube and see what a one megawatt transmitter can do! It makes those “Border Blaster” stations out of Tijuana look like a Heathkit 10-watt radio transmitter.

  • Jeff Wright

    That is another reason I like the Orbital Antenna Farm concept: huge dish/truss platforms. Putin could have targeted the spent Progress stump on its way down after delivering Prichal. No, I think Vladimir Proxmire begrudges every Ruble spent on civil space. This was aimed at Rogozin.
    Time for a brave cosmonaut to slip some Polonium in some borsht.

  • John asked: “What’s the value in blasting satellites in low earth orbit?”

    There is a lot of military value to low Earth orbit: it’s the highest ‘ground’ you can have, from the ground. FOBS, suborbital supply and landing to ground forces (demonstrated by the Billionaire Boys Rocket Club), quick-launch observation satellites, some bomber concepts, ballistic warheads. LEO is valuable real estate, and whomever controls the high ground, controls the battle.

  • RLABruce

    I wonder if the exploded target actually was an obsolete Russian satellite, as they claim, or whether it was an American intel satellite that was NOT obsolete? With their choice of targets–and knowing Biden would NEVER accuse Russia of doing such a thing–which do you think Russia would pick?

  • Why people think treaties have any value is beyond me.

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