The U.S. State Department on Monday accused Russia of having acted “dangerously and irresponsibly” with a military test of an anti-satellite missile that put astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) “at risk” from the space debris generated. The “reckless” destruction of one of its own satellites will pose a danger to space activities for years to come. This was stated by State Department spokesman Ned Price at a press conference in which he confirmed the military test by Moscow in which it destroyed one of its satellites.
Following the Russian test, the seven-member space station crew – four U.S. astronauts, one German astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts – were ordered to shelter in their docked spacecraft capsules for two hours after the test as a precaution to allow a quick escape if necessary.
The research lab, which orbits about 402 km above Earth, continued to pass through or near the debris cluster every 90 minutes, but NASA specialists determined it was safe for the crew to return to the station’s interior after the third pass, the agency said. The crew was also ordered to seal the hatches of several International Space Station (ISS) modules for the time being, NASA said.
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior endangers the safety of outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s statements against the use of weapons in space are false and hypocritical,” the U.S. official said. Price said the Russian satellite explosion has generated more than “1,500 identifiable pieces of space debris” and hundreds of thousands more of small size.
“This test significantly increases the risk to astronauts and cosmonauts in the ISS, as well as other human space activities,” he said. Currently, there are seven astronauts on the ISS, Americans Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron; along with Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, and German Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency.
The military test, not reported by Russia, comes at a time of rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over the concentration of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, where the Ukrainian government says there are about 90,000 Russian troops. “Russia has demonstrated a willful disregard for the safety, security, stability and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said the head of the space command, U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson.