On Monday, the United States strongly condemned a Russian anti-satellite test that forced crew members on the International Space Station to rush into their spacecraft for safety, calling it a “reckless and dangerous act” and stating that it “will not tolerate” behavior that jeopardizes international interests.
According to U.S. Space Command, Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite, or DA-ASAT, missile, striking a Russian satellite and generating a debris field in low-Earth orbit of more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of orbital debris.
U.S. has emphasized the long-term risks and potential global economic repercussions from Russia’s test, which has put phone and broadband service satellites, weather forecasting, GPS systems that support various financial systems, including bank machines, and in-flight entertainment and satellite radio and television, at risk.
“Earlier today, the Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites, Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement.
“This test has so far generated over fifteen hundred pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threatens the interests of all nations,” said Price.
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of our space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weapons and weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” said Price.
According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, the Defense Department also has the same complaints about the new Russian test.
“We watch closely the kinds of capabilities that Russia seems to want to develop which could pose a threat not just to our national security interests, but the security instance of other space-faring nations,” said Kirby.
“Russia has demonstrated a complete disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” Gen. James Dickinson, the U.S. Space Commander, said in a statement.
“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,” said Dickinson. “Space activities underpin our way of life, and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.”
The space station currently has seven astronauts on board, including NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, and the recently arrived Crew 3 mission team NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.
NASA said the “crew was awakened and directed to close the hatches to radial modules on the station,” while hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments remained open.
Shkaplerov tweeted on Monday morning, “Friends, everything is normal with us! We will continue to work in accordance with the program.”
In a statement issued on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated NASA’s condemnations.
“The long-lived debris created by this dangerous and irresponsible test will now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests for decades to come,” Blinken said.
Earlier, the United States Space Command confirmed that it was “aware of a debris-generating event in outer space and 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 incident takes place at a time when tensions between the United States and Russia are severe. U.S. officials have publicly raised questions about Russia’s troop surge near Ukraine’s border, and they have joined European nations in voicing concerns about the migrant crisis on the border with Belarus, which European officials say was created by Belarus with Russian support as an act of “hybrid war” against Europe.