“U.S. Space Command has evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon. On July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543, currently Satellite Catalog Number 45915 in Space-Track.org.”
You read that right – on July 15, 2020, a Russian satellite, which the United States has been keeping close tabs on because of earlier sinister behavior, pulled a move right out of a sci-fi flick by opening an embrasure and firing some sort of projectile into space. The announcement came on the same day (July 23) as a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which they were reported to have discussed arms control and exchanged congratulations on the 45th anniversary of the joint Soyuz-Apollo program. No mention was made of the space weapon in the public reports.
"The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite. This is further evidence of Russia's continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin's published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk."
According to Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, the satellite is Cosmos 2543, half of a pair with Cosmos 2542 that has been referred to as a “nesting doll” satellite system because they were launched as one unit but then separated. Russia admits that they are orbital inspector satellites. In keeping with that theme, U.S. Space Command originally considered Object 45915 to be the next smaller nesting doll satellite, but further inspection has convinced Gen. Raymond and others that it’s a space weapon – possibly destined to someday shoot down enemy satellites.
"This event highlights Russia's hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control, with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program — both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry."
Dr. Christopher Ford, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and temporary Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, agrees. The announcement by the U.S. Space Command says it will join forces with the Space Force to deal with this – it sounds like they’re still trying to figure out how these similar groups will work together.
So, now what, Gen. Raymond?
"The United States, in coordination with our allies, is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the Nation, our allies and vital U.S. interests from hostile acts in space."
In other words … posture, accuse and threaten. The evidence released does not 100% identify Object 45915 as a weapon. The U.S. also has anti-satellite weapons and doesn’t appear interested in halting tests. Many countries besides these two and China are putting hundreds of communications satellites in space at a fast pace. Knocking out or severely damaging that communications grid would severely impact life on Earth. Should we try to put more satellites in space than any enemy could ever knock out? Should we push for diplomacy and treaties?
Ha-ha! That’s a good one.
The military space race heats up and we get the chills.