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U.S., Britain say Russia tested space-based anti-satellite weapon

U.S., Britain say Russia tested space-based anti-satellite weapon
General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations at U.S. Space Force, prepares to testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in May. Pool Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

July 23 (UPI) -- The United States and Britain on Thursday said Russia conducted a non-destructive, space-based, anti-satellite weapons test earlier this month.

According to U.S. Space Command, on July 15 Russia "injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543," a satellite that has been in orbit since 2019.

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That move is "inconsistent with the system's stated mission as an inspector satellite," Space Command said.

"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," Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, said in a statement.

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In February, Raymond said two Russian satellites appeared to be observing a U.S. satellite at close range, a situation he described as "unusual and disturbing."

"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," Raymond said on Thursday.

The United States has not previously accused Russia of testing space-based anti-satellite weapons.

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According to Space Command's press release, the State Department considers the behavior 'hypocritical and concerning."

"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," said Christopher Ford, the Assistant Secretary of State currently performing the duties of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.

The State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance also posted about the alleged weapons test on Twitter.

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"Russia's test 2 days ago of an #ASAT missile designed to destroy satellites is why Moscow's proposals are not serious. A more accurate term for this efforts [sic] might be the 'No Second Placement' of weapons in space initiative," the bureau said in a series of tweets.

Britain's Ministry of Defense also expressed concern about the test, tweeting that the projectile launched from Russia's satellite has the "characteristics of a weapon."

"Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends," Harve Smyth, director of Britain's Space Directorate, said in a statement posted to Twitter.

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"We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behavior in space," Smyth said.

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