US: Debris field in space caused by Russian weapons test

A major Russian anti-satellite weapons test earlier Monday created a potentially dangerous field of around 1,500 pieces of debris in space, U.S. officials confirmed.

CNN was the first to report on a rare “debris-generating event,” which the State Department later said put the International Space Station and all global systems and astronauts in space at risk.

“Earlier today the Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during the daily press briefing.

“The test has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable, orbitable debris” as well as hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller debris “that now threaten the interests of all nations.”

Space analysts quickly tracked the target of the missile as Cosmos-1408, a now defunct satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1982.

Price said Washington will now work with allies and partners to respond to the “irresponsible act,” which involved the launch of a missile from the ground.

Following the launch. “Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of our outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” Price added.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also confirmed the test and said while the immediate concerns center around the space debris, “we watch closely the kinds of capabilities that Russia seems to want to develop.”

Such Kremlin capabilities could “pose a threat not just to our national security interests but the security interests of other space faring nations.”

Kirby added that the United States wants to see space “subject to international norms and rules,” and that Washington was not notified of the test beforehand.

Space has become a hotly contested domain in recent years, with the United States, Russia and China all building their arsenals of anti-satellite weapons, lasers and other armaments to prevent each other from effectively using their satellites.

Following the latest Russian test, U.S. Space Command told CNN it was actively working to characterize the debris field and will continue to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted.”

The command also said it was working with the State Department and NASA.

The incident is sure to raise already high tensions between Washington and Moscow, which are currently at odds over a buildup of Russian troops near its border with Ukraine. The Kremlin has insisted the military buildup is a reaction to NATO military activities. 

Updated: 4:29 p.m.

Tags John Kirby Russia U.S. Space Command

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