On April 15th, the US Space Command said that Russia had tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile.
“Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious, and growing,” SPACECOM boss Gen. Jay Raymond said in the release. “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.”
“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.
There was no claim at what specifically the Russians were allegedly aiming at, but spokeswoman Lt. Col. Christina Hoggatt said that no space debris was being tracked as a result.
SPACECOM said Russia’s missile can destroy satellites in low Earth orbit, which stretches up to 1,200 miles above the Earth. Direct-ascent weapons try “to strike a satellite using a trajectory that intersects the target satellite without placing the interceptor into orbit,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Gen. John Raymond said. “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 has called on governments to adopt norms for responsible behavior in space.
“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,” he said.
In a recent executive order signed by US President Donald Trump, this “responsible behavior in space” is outlined as Washington’s hegemony in space, since it can’t be considered a “global commons” and as such, the U.S. should be allowed to decide what happens in it, plus also be allowed enforce the rules with strength if other’s aren’t playing by them.
Raymond in February called out Russia for deploying an “inspector” satellite dubbed Cosmos-2542 that ejected a sub-satellite, Cosmos-2543 that was reportedly chasing USA 245, a classified imaging satellite owned by the National Reconnaissance Office.
“These satellites have been actively maneuvering near a U.S. government satellite,” Raymond said.
“We remain committed to preferring that space remain free of conflict,” Raymond told SpaceNews. “But other nations have turned space into a warfighting domain,” he added. “Russia is developing on-orbit capabilities that seek to exploit the United States’ reliance on space-based systems.”
Space weapons expert Brian Weeden, of the Secure World Foundation, said the weapon tested was a Nudol ballistic missile test, and Russia put out a warning that it would be launching one. “This appears to have been the 9th or 10th test of the Nudol system since 2014, so we known this system has been in development for a while,” Weeden said.
According to American data, this is the eighth test of the Nudol missile, whether it was successful is not reported.
The previous (successful, according to American intelligence sources) test of the Nudol missile was carried out from Plesetsk on December 23rd, 2018, when a missile launched from a mobile launcher flew 1864 miles in 17 minutes.
The launching sites for testing the Nudol missiles in Plesetsk are allegedly located on the former launch pad of the Tsyklon launch vehicles.
So far, according to US data, prior to April 15th, the system has been tested 7 times, out of which 5 were successful:
- First launch on August 12th, 2014 – from the Plesetsk training ground, according to the US Department of Defense was unsuccessful, however, according to the web resource planet4589.org, it was successful;
- Second launch on April 22nd, 2015 – from Plesetsk – according to the US Department of Defense and the planet4589.org web resource, was unsuccessful;
- Third launch on November 18th, 2015 – from Plesetsk, and it was successful;
- Fourth Launch on May 25th, 2016 – from Plesetsk, and it was successful;
- Fifth launch on December 16th, 2016 – made from a base in the central part of Russia, possibly the Kapustin Yar training ground and it was successful;
- Sixth launch on March 26th, 2018 – from Plesetsk, with a standard mobile launcher and it was successful;
- Seventh launch on December 23rd, 2018 – from Plesetsk, with a standard mobile launcher and it was successful.
Transfer and launch of the anti-missile defense system A-235 (Nudol) at the Sary-Shagan test site, supposedly on August 30, 2018.
The Nudol DA-ASAT system has been under development since at least 2011 and may form the mobile ASAT portion, or is possibly an offshoot, of the proposed A-235 anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system (RTTs-181M) –OTR (operational tactical rocket), codename Samolet-M –that has been under development since 1985. The A-235 is intended to replace the Moscow-area A-135 Amur (ABM-4A ‘Gazelle’/ABM-4B ‘Gorgon’, sometimes also designated ABM-3 ‘Gazelle’/ABM-4 ‘Gorgon’) ABM system, with various components including the 53T6M endoatmospheric interceptor, which is a modified 53T6 (ABM-4A ‘Gazelle’) from the A-135, currently undergoing testing.
Regardless, Moscow maintains that it is against the deployment of weapons in Space, and it is also no surprise that it is developing capabilities to counter any weapons in space, by using ground-based means, if the United States is keen on sabotaging all attempts to reach an agreement in the field that doesn’t directly and only cater to Washington’s interests.
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