Cosmos-1408 was destroyed by a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile (ASAT) launched from Plesetsk in northwest Russia between late November 14 or early November 15 according to NASA. The satellite had been in an orbit for nearly 40 years before being demolished and divided into thousands of floating pieces of debris.
The international community denounced the Russian operation as all debris are particularly dangerous and resistant to time.
A similar ASAT test initiated by China in 2007 created debris that continues to be a hazard for the satellites and the International Space Station.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement: “The Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct-ascent antisatellite missile against one of its own satellites.
“The test has so far generated 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.”
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behaviour jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical.”
The satellite demolition forced the seven people on the ISS to shelter in their Crew Dragon and Soyuz vehicles because of a “debris cloud” for two hours.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson 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.”
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also shared his outrage: “This destructive anti-satellite missile test by Russia shows a complete disregard for the security, safety and sustainability of space.
“The debris resulting from this test will remain in orbit putting satellites and human spaceflight at risk for years to come.”
That Russia invested funds into destroying its own satellite for one ASAT test gives us an idea of what the future of warfare will look like suggests Juliana Suess from the defence and security think tank The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
She wrote: “Russia may be calculating that space will play an increasing role, or potentially become a host to the conflict itself.”
“With Russia’s extensive history of spaceflight and manned missions, the decision taken to launch the test would have included calculations over space debris and the risk it posed to international and Russian crew members in orbit at the time.”
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Ms Suess added: “The Worldwide Threat Assessment by the Director for National Intelligence added that military reforms in Russia suggest that forces are being adapted to be able to carry out ‘attacks against space systems.'”
She says that Putin’s further developments in space technology is to counter US capabilities and catch up with global capabilities in the domain.
The host of the “War in Space” podcast also claims the ASAT technology had been in the making for a while in Russia.