General John Raymond, U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, signs the United States Space Command sign inside of the Perimeter Acquisition Radar building Jan. 10, 2020, on Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota.
Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Howley

The U.S. Space Command is aware and tracking Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test today.

“Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” said General John W. “Jay” Raymond, USSPACECOM commander and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. “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.”

General Jay Raymond the first Chief of Space Operations and first member of the Space Force.

Hypocritical advocacy

Russia’s missile system is capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) and comes on the heels of Russia’s on-orbit testing the U.S. highlighted in February, namely COSMOS 2542 and COSMOS 2543.

These satellites, which behaved similar to previous Russian satellites that exhibited characteristics of a space weapon, conducted maneuvers near a U.S. Government satellite that would be interpreted as irresponsible and potentially threatening in any other domain, according to a U.S. Space Command statement.

“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,” Gen. Raymond said.

Anti-satellite painting by William K. Hartmann

Shared interest

“Space is critical to all nations and our way of life,” Raymond added. “The demands on space systems continue in this time of crisis where global logistics, transportation and communication are key to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” Gen. Raymond concluded.

A single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), successfully impacting a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite approximately 133 nautical miles (247 kilometers) over the Pacific Ocean, as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. President George W. Bush decided to bring down the satellite because of the likelihood that the satellite could release hydrazine fuel upon impact, possibly in populated areas.
Credit: U.S. Navy

U.S. ASAT work

In the United States, there has also been early testing of ASAT prowess.

Operation Burnt Frost was carried out in February 2008 when the US military shot a missile at a decaying satellite from the National Reconnaissance Office. That test was justified because the USA-193 spacecraft was loaded with toxic hydrazine fuel that was deemed hazardous to the public if parts of the satellite fell to Earth and reached land.

A highly modified F-15A scored a direct hit on a U.S. satellite in this Sept. 13, 1985 test shot over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Credit: Edwards Air Force Base

The USS Lake Erie fired a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) to shoot down the satellite, neutralizing the potential dangers the errant satellite originally imposed.

In an earlier ASAT test, a modified F-15A fighter jet scored a direct hit on a satellite in September 1985 that was orbiting 340 miles above the Earth.

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