Russian anti-satellite weapon test debris forces astronauts to safety

Russia carried out an anti-satellite missile test on Monday, wiping out one of its own satellites in orbit. The test created a vast clo...


Russia carried out an anti-satellite missile test on Monday, wiping out one of its own satellites in orbit. The test created a vast cloud of debris that continues to orbit Earth, and some of the material loomed dangerously close to the International Space Station, forcing astronauts to shelter for hours in a pair of spacecraft. capable of bringing them back to Earth.

In a statement released Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called the missile strike “reckless driving.”

“The test has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of traceable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of orbital debris,” he added. The US Space Command said in a statement that “the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially decades, posing a significant risk to the crew of the International Space Station and other manned space flight activities.” .

“It’s pitiful that the Russians are doing this,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in an interview. He said NASA officials spoke to Russian space agency Roscosmos about the anti-satellite test. Mr Nelson said the NASA official who oversees the space station, Joel Montalbano, as well as the third NASA official, Bob Cabana, are in Moscow and plan to discuss the test with their Russian counterparts tomorrow.

Mr. Nelson also noted that the incident threatened the Three astronauts now on board the Chinese space station Tiangong.

Russian military officials did not respond to requests for comment on the weapon test. But it happened at a time when military tensions between Russia and the United States have increased. Last Wednesday, the State Department said Russia was assembling troops on its border with Ukraine. Mr Blinken said aggressive actions at the border “would be of great concern to the United States”.

NASA and Roscosmos, which jointly manage the space station and protect the astronauts inside, have been largely isolated from military tensions between Washington and Moscow. But these two geopolitical spheres clashed after Monday’s weapons test.

Mr Nelson said he had “reason to believe” that officials in Roscosmos were unaware that the Russian Defense Ministry was planning to launch an anti-satellite missile.

“And if any of those knew, they should have raised Cain, because of the threats to the astronauts and cosmonauts on the space station,” he said.

Russian authorities filed airspace notices on Monday warning planes to avoid the Plesetsk launch site about 650 miles north of Moscow. This is the same place where an old russian anti-satellite missile took off in december 2020, although this test did not hit any targets. Monday’s notifications said a launch was due to take place early Monday morning, around the same time an old Russian surveillance satellite was about to overfly the area.

The missile hit the satellite, named Cosmos 1408, shattering it.

At around the same time, the NASA astronauts on the space station were abruptly woken up by a mission control official in Houston who asked the astronauts to take refuge in their spaceship.

“Hey Mark, hello, sorry for the early call,” said a NASA official in Houston, speaking to Mark Vande Hei, one of four NASA astronauts currently on the space station. “We were recently notified of a satellite rupture and we must ask you to start reviewing the refuge process.”

During Monday’s event, the astronauts closed various hatches between the station’s compartments and boarded a spacecraft docked at the orbital outpost that could bring them back to Earth in the event of a crash. There are currently two spacecraft – a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and a Russian Soyuz capsule – capable of entering Earth’s atmosphere and carrying crews to the surface.

Raja Chari, the commander of a NASA mission that brought four astronauts to the space station last week, climbed aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and powered it up in case it needed to undock.

The astronauts stayed in the capsules for about two hours, from shortly before 2 a.m. to around 4 a.m. subject. ”A spokesperson for the agency declined to elaborate and deferred to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Anti-satellite tests generate clouds of debris that can remain in space for decades. Russia’s strike on Monday created the largest new field of space debris since 2007, when China launched a missile at one of its old weather satellites. This weapon test created a swarm of approximately 2,300 pieces of debris.

The United States conducted its own weapons test in 2008, which created an orbital cloud of approximately 400 pieces. a Indian weapon test in 2019 to the left approximately as much debris as the 2008 American test.

NASA administrator at the time, Jim Bridenstine, said the Indian test put the space station at risk. And just last week, NASA and Russian officials were forced to move the position of the orbiting International Space Station to dodge a piece of debris from the 2007 Chinese test.

But weapon testing isn’t the only source of debris in space. Aging satellites that are not properly removed from orbit have added to the world’s space waste. Experts are also concerned about the risks posed by private companies, many of which are based in the United States, which plan to launch thousands of satellites which would transmit broadband Internet service to Earth.

US military officials have increased their footprint in space in recent years as competition in low Earth orbit intensifies between Washington, Russia and China, including creating the US Space Force as a separate branch of the forces. armies. The Pentagon has long criticized Russia for its space activities, which included moving satellites too close to US spy satellites and launching satellites that hatch smaller, maneuverable spacecraft without warning.

“Russian tests of direct-ascension anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to seek counter-space weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations,” said James Dickinson, commander of the Command. space, in a press release.

Some of the astronauts aboard the space station seemed to be looking forward to the day’s events. Mr Vande Hei, who has been in orbit since April, thanked NASA Mission Control in Houston “for a crazy but well coordinated day” after the crews left their lifeboats.

“It was definitely a great way to bond with the crew,” he said.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington and Andrew Kramer, Alina Lobzina and Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting from Moscow.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Russian anti-satellite weapon test debris forces astronauts to safety
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