Cuban Missile Crisis in space: Russia uses secret satellite to test nuclear weapons

Russia uses the Cosmos 2553 satellite to test components of anti-satellite nuclear weapons. This is reported by The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed American officials.

Cosmos-2553 was launched into Earth orbit on February 5, 2022 — just 19 days before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to sources in The Wall Street Journal, it is being used by Russia as a secret platform for testing components of new space weapons. It is designed to destroy mega-satellite constellations, in particular the Starlink grouping, which played an important role in the defense of Ukraine.

Satellites in Earth orbit in the artist’s impression. Source: ESA

To solve this problem, Russia wants to use nuclear weapons. The electromagnetic pulse generated by its explosion will destroy most of the spacecraft in low Earth orbit. In addition, it will create an artificial radiation belt around the Earth, which will disable most of the satellites that survived the initial explosion.

There are no nuclear weapons on board Cosmos-2553. But according to American intelligence, it carries a number of components of a future weapons system. It is reported that the satellite is in an “unusual” orbit, which is not used by other spacecraft, and still continues to function.

Cuban Missile Crisis in space

For the first time, Russia’s intention to deploy nuclear weapons in space became known in February 2024, when American officials reported a serious threat to national security. The head of the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives, Republican Mike Turner, figuratively called the current situation the “Cuban Missile Crisis in space.”

Mike Turner speaks about the threat posed by Russian nuclear weapons in space. Source: The Wall Street Journal

It is worth saying that the explosion of an atomic bomb in low orbit will lead to catastrophic consequences. This is an absolutely indiscriminate weapon that will disable thousands of spacecraft, regardless of which country it belongs to. It will also make manned space flights impossible for several years.

Russia itself, of course, categorically denies such plans. As for Cosmos-2553, according to the official version, it is intended for scientific research. 

At the same time, the actions of the aggressor country speak for themselves. Most recently, Russia vetoed a UN resolution banning the deployment of nuclear weapons in outer space. It became the only member of the UN Security Council to vote against the document.

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