Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile that struck Russian satellite COSMOS 1408 and created a debris field in low Earth orbit on Nov. 15. According to U.S. Space Command at Peterson Space Force Base, the test so far has generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.
“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, in a news release. “The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.”
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were alerted to the test by flight controllers, and directed to close the hatches to radial modules on the station. “I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a news release. “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.”
U.S. Space Command’s initial assessment is that the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries’ satellites. “The weapons test by Russia is concerning,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-CD5. “By creating thousands of pieces of orbital debris, they’ve made space more dangerous for the space station [and] future space missions. Our national security space enterprise must be shaped to deter this aggression.”