Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test on Monday that produced a debris field in low-Earth orbit. In response, the United officials said it endangered the International Space Station (ISS) and will pose a risk to space activities for many years. The Russian anti-satellite test blew up one of the satellites of Russia to create debris, due to which the ISS crew moved to spacecraft to shelter themselves for two hours.
At present, the international space station has seven crew members on board – four American astronauts, two Russian astronauts, and one German astronaut. In addition, the space station orbits at an altitude of around two hundred and sixty miles. Ned Price, the spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, said at a press briefing that the Russian Federation irresponsibly led a destructive satellite test of an anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites.
.@StateDeptSpox discusses the Russian Federation’s reckless test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile that has created over 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations. pic.twitter.com/WkO0fULrTy
— Department of State (@StateDept) November 15, 2021
Hundreds of Thousands of Fragments
So far, the test produced more than fifteen hundred pieces of trackable orbital debris and thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now risks the interests of all countries across the world. Bill Nelson, the Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator, said he was irritated at the Russian incident. He stated that with its prolonged history in human spaceflight, it is ridiculous that Russia would risk the U.S. and international partner cosmonauts on the space station and their own astronauts and the Chinese taikonauts aboard the Chinese space station.
In the coming days, NASA will continue to monitor the debris in the coming few days and beyond to ensure the protection and safety of their crew in orbit, according to the statement of NASA head Nelson. Similarly, space experts expressed that testing weapons that destroy satellites in orbit pose a space risk by producing clouds of trashes that collide with other objects in space, igniting a chain reaction of missiles through Earth orbit.
Statement from the Russian Space Agency and U.S. Response on the Incident
On the other side, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, downplayed the recent incident by taking Twitter. It tweeted that the orbit of the object, which forced the crew members today to the capsule by following the standard procedures, moved away from the ISS orbit. Further, it added that the station is in the green zone.
The @Space_Station crew is routinely performing operations according to the flight program.
The orbit of the object, which forced the crew today to move into spacecraft according to standard procedures, has moved away from the ISS orbit.
The station is in the green zone. pic.twitter.com/MVHVACSpmT
— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) November 15, 2021
The Russian ministry of defense and military were not available for comment on the incident. On the other hand, space command chief United States Army general James Dickinson said that Russia showed deliberate negligence for the stability, safety, security, and long-term sustainability of the space missions for all countries. Furthermore, he adds that the missile test debris will continue to pose a risk to future space activities for many years and put space missions and satellites at stake, besides forcing more collision evading exercises.
Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, doomed the missile test as irresponsible and reckless. The incident came only four days after a group of four space station cosmonauts – Kayla Barron of NASA, Americans Tom Marshburn, Raja Chair, and European Space Agency crewmember Matthias Maurer of Germany – reached the orbiting platform to start a six-month space mission. Three ISS crew members – Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov & Anton Shkaplerov and American astronaut Mark Vande Hei – already onboard welcomed them.
Past History of Anti-satellite Tests in Space
In 1959, the U.S. conducted the first anti-satellite tests in space when satellites were new and rare. Moreover, in April Russian space agency launched another test of an anti-satellite missile as officials expressed that space will progressively become a significant domain for warfare. Whereas India shot down one of its own satellites in 2019 in low-Earth orbit by using its ground-to-space missile.
On the other hand, these anti-missile tests raised questions about the longstanding sustainability of space missions crucial to a massive range of commercial activities, from weather forecasting and telecommunications to GPS services and banking.