On November 15, 2021, Russia carried out a test launch of a rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. It successfully struck Soviet spacecraft Tselina-D, which had been in orbit since 1982. Russian officials did not disclose what weapon was used during the tests.
Thus, Russia has demonstrated its capabilities to shoot down satellites in low Earth orbit and intercept ballistic missile warheads in near space.
Russia has become the fourth country to use a weapon capable of solving the problems of combating spacecraft and that is not placed in near-Earth space.
The first ever successful launch was made by China. On January 11, 2007, China conducted a test of its anti-satellite weapons: the FY-1C Fengyun series weather satellite, located in a polar orbit with an altitude of 865 km, was hit by a direct hit of an anti-satellite missile. The rocket was launched from a mobile launcher at the Xichang Cosmodrome and intercepted a satellite on a collision course. As a result, a large cloud of debris was created: ground-based tracking systems registered at least 2,317 peaces of space debris. According to some reports, the successful test was the third in a series of Chinese attempts to shoot down a satellite.
After several failed attempts, the US Navy successfully test launched its anti-satellite weapons for the first time on February 21, 2008. A Standard Missile-3 was launched from the Ticonderoga-class Lake Erie ship equipped with the AEGIS anti-missile system, which hit the USA-193 satellite located at an altitude of 247 kilometers. The operation was carried out under the direct command of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
On March 27, 2019, the Indian military during the tests shot down a space satellite in low Earth orbit (at an altitude of 300 km). As a result of the test, about 400 fragments of space debris remained in orbit. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it an outstanding achievement of the country’s national space program. He said that the destruction of the satellite took place “in less than three minutes” after the launch of the rocket. Sources in the US administration reported that India conducted the first weapons test on February 12, 2019, but it was unsuccessful.
On November 15, 2021, Russia shot down its Tselina-D spacecraft, which caused a sharp reaction from the West.
“The Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. NASA Chief Bill Nelson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joined his comments, blaming Moscow for dangerous and irresponsible” missile strike.
The successful test demonstrated not only that Russia now also has its own anti-satellite weapon. An important message for the United States was that the downed Tselina-D spacecraft, which served for optical reconnaissance and weighed about 1,700 kilograms, is similar to the US Block III satellites in terms of mass and size parameters. Block III is used to keep the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS) operational. Russia has demonstrated its ability to hit similar US satellites.
At the same time, the tests conducted by Russia, the United States, China and India do not violate any international obligations, since there are no agreements regulating conventional weapons in orbit.
Earlier, Moscow and Beijing proposed to develop a treaty prohibiting the deployment of weapons in space and threatening space objects, but it did not receive the support of the West, primarily the US, which at the same time accused Russia and China of developing anti-satellite technologies.
Inner Space wars, primarily promoted by the United States, seems to become more and more real. Today, space is not a path of human expansion as a way out from the Earth’s closed system, which could offer new opportunities, new resources, new moral aspiration for human beings of the Earth origin. It is nothing more but a field that humanity is exploring with the steps of midgets in order to gain new advantages in traditional confrontation, to create a new dump and in soap-opera stile PR.
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