Jul 23, 2020 - Science

Russia tested an anti-satellite weapon in space

A photo taken from orbit of the Sun glinting off the ocean

An image of the Earth taken from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Russia conducted a test of an in-space anti-satellite weapon last week, according to U.S. Space Command statement released Thursday.

Why it matters: The test didn't destroy a satellite, but the Pentagon is pointing to it as evidence of a troubling trend by Russia that has escalated tensions in orbit.

  • The test took place on July 15 when the satellite Cosmos 2543 fired an object not far from another Russian satellite.
  • Before the test, the satellite system was flying near a powerful 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," Gen. John Raymond, Space Force Chief of Space Operations said in the statement.

The backdrop: This test comes after another Russian anti-satellite test in April, which involved a different kind of weapon launched from the ground.

The big picture: Countries that are able to operate these anti-satellite systems have refrained from using them against their enemies, but experts stress if that changes in the future, it's not just national assets on the line.

  • The debris created by anti-satellite tests can make wide parts of orbit unusable for all nations, not just those targeted.
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