Skip to main content

Russia has tested an anti-satellite weapon in space, US Space Command says

The U.S. Space Command reports that Russia tested a space-based anti-satellite weapon in orbit on July 15, 2020. This image shows the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, the site of a Russian anti-satellite missile test in April 2020.
The U.S. Space Command reports that Russia tested a space-based anti-satellite weapon in orbit on July 15, 2020. This image shows the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, the site of a Russian anti-satellite missile test in April 2020.
(Image: © Roscosmos)

The U.S. Space Command announced Thursday (July 23) that it has evidence that Russia has tested a space-based anti-satellite weapon.

On July 15, Russia "injected a new object into orbit" orbit from the Cosmos 2543 satellite and "conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon," the U.S. Space Command (USSC) said an emailed statement. The object is listed under the Satellite Catalog Number 45915 on space-track.org, it added.

In this recent test, Russia released the new object close to another Russian satellite, a maneuver similar to previous Russian satellite activity that the U.S. Department of State described in the statement as "inconsistent with their stated mission" as an inspector satellite. 

"These satellites displayed characteristics of a space-based weapon," the Department of State added, calling the behavior "hypocritical and concerning."

Video: Watch Russia launch the two mysterious satellites
Related: The most dangerous space weapons ever

This satellite system used to conduct this test is the same one that the U.S. Space Force labeled as "unusual and disturbing" in February of this year after two Russian satellites in the system (COSMOS 2542 and COSMOS 2543) followed a U.S. spy satellite. 

"This is further evidence of Russia's continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin's published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk," Raymond said in the statement.

The U.S. Space Force considers these recent actions a "threat" and, following the April launch of another anti-satellite missile, the Space Force determined that the trailing satellites "exhibited characteristics of a space weapon," according to Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations.

Related: Declassified US spy satellite photos & designs

"This event highlights Russia's hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control, with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program — both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry," Christopher Ford, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State who is currently performing the duties of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, said in the same statement. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

  • Geomartian
    Si vis pacem, para bellum "If you want peace, prepare for war".
    Reply
  • Lovethrust
    Geomartian said:
    Si vis pacem, para bellum "If you want peace, prepare for war".
    Much truer than the policy “peace through appeasement” so prevalent in some idiotic circles.
    Reply