US Space Command Denounces Russian 'Hostile' Anti-Satellite Weapon Test

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A Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 satellites lifts off from the launch pad.
FILE- In this file photo taken April 28, 2016, a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 satellites lifts off from the launch pad at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk, Russia. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via AP, File)

The U.S. Space Command said Wednesday it is tracking a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test Russia conducted to prove if it can interfere with or destroy satellites in low earth orbit.

"Russia's DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing," Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, SPACECOM commander and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, said in a released statement. "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."

Space Command officials said the most recent test follows unprofessional behavior observed in February when two Russian satellites, Cosmos 2542 and 2543, tailed an American satellite, USA 245, also known as the KH-11. Time Magazine reported the Russian satellites loitered within 100 miles of KH-11, activity Raymond called "unusual and disturbing," similar to Russia's past risky, high-velocity confrontations in international airspace.

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"This test is further proof of Russia's hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals designed to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs," Raymond said.

After its deactivation in 2002, Space Command reactivated in August to become the military's 11th combatant command.

"Space is critical to all nations and our way of life. The demands on space systems continue in this time of crisis where global logistics, transportation and communication are key to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic," Raymond said. "It is a shared interest and responsibility of all spacefaring nations to create safe, stable and operationally sustainable conditions for space activities, including commercial, civil and national security activities."

The Russian test follows two new reports that infer disruptive anti-satellite actions by adversary nations are on the rise.

According to a March 30 Center for Strategic and International Studies analysis, "Space Threat Assessment 2020," more countries, including big players like the U.S., Russia and China, are launching or experimenting with next-generation technologies in space; some are gradually normalizing non-kinetic ways to disrupt operations. Those methods include disguising information and communications through GPS spoofing, jamming connections and even dazzling, or blinding, satellites with lasers.

The report warned of increased co-orbital adversary activity, such as close inspection of satellites in geostationary orbit, and said that "the rate of satellite jamming and spoofing incidents will only increase as these capabilities continue to proliferate and become more sophisticated in the coming years."

That report followed another study released last month by the Secure World Foundation, which stated countries around the world should not discount the reality that some bad actors may be stepping up both offensive and defensive measures in space.

"The evidence shows significant research and development of a broad range of kinetic (destructive) and non-kinetic counter-space capabilities in multiple countries," according to the annual Global Counterspace Capabilities study, as reported by Space News.

According to a 2019 SWF report, Russia has been working on stepping up its on-orbit experiments -- to include anti satellite weapons -- since at least 2011.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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