The United States declared a moratorium on testing anti-satellite weapons

The United States has declared a moratorium on testing direct acting anti-satellite weapons, which leads to the formation of space debris. The corresponding statement was made by American Vice President Kamala Harris during her speech at the US Air Force Base at the Vandenberg Cosmodrome.

MiG-31 with an anti-satellite missile. Source: Т

According to Harris, the American moratorium is part of an international company whose goal is to create new rules of conduct in outer space. The United States calls on other countries to join their initiative and abandon the testing of anti-satellite weapons.

History of anti-satellite weapons tests

Over the past decades, four tests have taken place in near Earth orbit, which ended with the destruction of spacecraft. The most dangerous of them were the Chinese test of 2007 and the Russian test of 2021. During the first test, the PRC shot down the weather satellite FY-1C. The destruction of the spacecraft led to the formation of more than three thousand fragments, which at the same time increased the existing population of space debris by a quarter. The problem was compounded by the fact that FY-1 was in a high 865-kilometer orbit. According to Harris, even now there are still about 2,800 fragments of the Chinese spacecraft in space.

The Russian shooting at Kosmos-1408 became an ominous portent of the events of this year. During them, a cloud of several thousand fragments was formed at altitudes from 440 km to 520 km. These are the most “populated” orbits, where a significant part of the operating spacecraft flies. Moreover, as the altitude of the orbit gradually decreases, they will begin to pose a direct threat to the ISS and the Chinese orbital station.

The destruction of Kosmos-1408 has reawakened fears about the possibility of Kessler syndrome. This is a scenario in which fragments of space debris will begin to collide with each other and other satellites, which will lead to a self-sustaining destruction reaction. Its result may be the fact that humanity will lose the opportunity to launch anything into space for a long time.

Experts’ Reaction

It is not surprising that many space agencies welcomed the US decision, calling it the right step towards ensuring the safety of outer space. But there were also critics pointing out that an undirected ban would only give an advantage to China and Russia, which are engaged in the creation of new anti-satellite weapons systems and oppose the militarization of outer space.

Space debris in the artist’s view. Source: Intelligent Living

However, it is fair to say that the American moratorium applies only to tests with direct acting weapons (i.e. missiles), leading to the formation of space debris. This means that suborbital tests, as well as other weapons systems like lasers, are not subject to the moratorium.

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