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Jonathan's Space Report

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Last Updated: 02 July 2021

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Jonathan's Space Report

Available inEnglish
Created byJonathan McDowell
URLJonathan's Space Report
Current statusactive

The Commander of US Space Command asserted today that Russia conducted non-destructive test of a Space-base antisatellite weapon last week. Gen. Jay Raymond, dual-hat as head of US Space Force, warned earlier this year of provocative actions by Russian inspector satellites as the United States amplified its message that Russia and China have make space warfighting domain. The incident occurred on July 15 when Russian Cosmos 2543 released a sub-satellite in a manner US Space Command considers threatening even though it does not collide with or otherwise harm any other spacecraft. Although it was eject near another Russian satellite, Cosmos 2543 had been maneuvering close to US military satellite weeks earlier, as Raymond revealed in a February interview in Time magazine. The implication is that Russia could have propelled a sub-satellite toward US satellite just as easily. What happened this time mirrors the 2017 incident described by a US official at the 2018 United Nations meeting. Russia claims these are inspector satellites designed to observe other spacecraft, but US officials worry sub-satellites could be projectiles intended to damage or destroy. Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who is author of the website Jonathans Space Report, told spacepolicyonline. Com today that by comparing the closest approach of two objects and their relative speeds, he calculated the sub-satellite was eject at a speed of approximately 200 meters per second. He agrees that if construe as ejection of a missile to hit target, that would be troubling, but argues there could be other explanations. For example, Cosmos 2535 might have sensors to characterize rocket plumes and was observing sub-satellite in that regard. That would count as a missile Defense sensor test, not an ASAT test, McDowell reason. Smaller satellites separating from larger ones is not uncommon, especially in the era of cubesats and nanosats. It is the velocity that makes this event unusual. Brian Weeden of Secure World Foundation told spacepolicyonline. Com that he concur with Raymonds evaluation that it was some sort of weapons test. An expert on development and testing of ASAT systems throughout the history of the Space program, he sees it not as something new, however, but a return to how things used to be. The SWF spreadsheet tracks 70 ASAT tests conducted in Space since 1959. About 50 took place during the Cold War. After a decade-long break, they resumed in 2005 and about 20 have taken place since then by United States, Russia, China and India. It is more accurate to say that Space is returning to being a warfighting domain like it was during the Cold War, but with even more potential combatants now, Weeden say. SWF and the Center for Strategic and International Studies each publish annual reports on what are generically called counterspace activities. View as ASAT test, incident underscores the threat posed to US satellites by Russia and the need for US Space Command and US Space Force, according to Raymonds statement.

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