WASHINGTON – Russia carried out a test of an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, calling it an example of the threats the United States faced in space.
The move comes as officials have said that space will increasingly become an important domain for warfare, with the U.S. and other countries such as Russia and China stepping up their military postures in low-Earth orbit and near the moon.
Experts say that anti-satellite weapons that shatter their targets pose a space hazard by creating a cloud of fragments that can collide with other objects, potentially setting off a chain reaction of projectiles through Earth orbit.
“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,” General John Raymond, the commander of U.S. Space Command, said in a statement.
Raymond added that the test was proof of “Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals … while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs.”
Russian airspace notices indicate the test was conducted around Wednesday morning. It did not appear that the mobile missile system was targeting any satellites in space based on public satellite data, according to analysts.
The test was of Russia’s new Nudol anti-satellite missile system, analysts projected, launching from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 800 km (497 miles) north of Moscow.
The U.S. military is increasingly dependent on satellites to determine what it does on the ground, guiding munitions with space-based lasers and satellites as well as using such assets to monitor for missile launches and track its forces.
The U.S. and China have carried out similar anti-satellite tests. In March, India launched the most recent anti-satellite missile test against a satellite in low Earth orbit, creating a field of impact debris whose fragments continue to orbit Earth today.