Russia Confirms Anti-Satellite Test

U.S. officials condemn it, saying it created thousands of pieces of debris that jeopardized astronauts on the International Space Station.

Russia on Tuesday confirmed its involvement this week in an anti-satellite missile test that created thousands of pieces of orbital debris and drew sharp condemnation from U.S. officials.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed no wrongdoing and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of “hypocrisy,” in terms of high-risk operations in Earth’s orbit.

“On November 15, the Defense Ministry of Russia successfully conducted a test, in which the Russian defunct Tselina-D satellite in orbit since 1982 was struck,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday, adding that there was no risk posed by Monday’s test.

“The U.S. knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities,” Russia’s defense ministry said, according to The Associated Press.

Monday’s test spurred immediate backlash from U.S. officials, who said the anti-satellite (ASAT) test posed an immediate risk to the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who were forced to suit up and take shelter Monday. The test also created more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris, with hundreds of thousands more of smaller debris floating around with it.

The U.S. Department of State deemed the ASAT test “dangerous,” noting that the U.S. and its allies would work together to “respond to this irresponsible act.”

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken took to Twitter Monday, saying, “We condemn Russia’s reckless test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against its own satellite, creating space debris that risks astronauts’ lives, the integrity of the International Space Station, and the interests of all nations.”

NASA administrator Bill Nelson also expressed frustration over the test. “Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action,” he said. “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous…”

The Department of State declined to detail what actions the U.S. and its allies would do to deter Russia from conducting subsequent ASAT tests.

NASA said it will continue to monitor the debris to “ensure the safety of our crew in orbit.”

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