Russian missiles prove that space is already a battlefield

Space – Over 1500 new debris in low orbit around Earth. The results of the Russian test of an anti-satellite missile (ASAT) add a handful of pieces to the incredible puzzle of space debris, threatening the International Space Station in flight at relatively high altitudes.

however, You can watch the video at the top of this article, There is no great novelty in this Russian gesture. If the elimination of an old Tselina-D type satellite that has been idle for years provokes the ire of international diplomats, because it complicates the management of space debris… and he puts his finger on an open mystery. Because space warfare is nothing new.

“There is no militarization of space, because space has always been militarized,” added Bladen Bowen, a war expert in the space sector at the University of Leicester (Great Britain). “Russia has done so many experiments in recent years, it came too close to go unnoticed!”. And Moscow is not the only one to blame.

Space COP26

Four countries have demonstrated the ability to launch satellites from the ground or from aircraft in flight. The US and Russia, since the Cold War, then China and most recently India, whose launch of a missile in 2019 has already angered the space agencies… and made all the national media proud.

However, exercise is strictly prohibited, as reminded HuffPost Christophe Bonal, space pollution expert in the CNS Launcher Division. “All the countries of the world, including China, Russia and the United States, have signed agreements for twenty years that prohibit this type of activity”, he explained, before noting: “The first rule is that it is forbidden to deliberately create new places. Ruins”. We couldn’t be clearer. But there is an interstellar space between the rules and their application.

“I would draw a parallel with COP26” laughed the French expert. “In writing, everyone agrees”, but in practice, the absence of regulation is complete, and little transparency is excluded. All that is left for space agencies is to count new debris, often without knowing whether it is an intentional or unintentional collision, for example with debris already in orbit. Every year, a dozen satellites break up, fortunately not all of them disintegrate “puzzle-style” like the ill-fated Russian Selina-D.

The situation is not going to ease over our heads anytime soon. Today, 3000 growing satellites, all orbits combined, traverse space around us, and this number has every reason to increase. In fact there are rules that require satellites to be “decommissioned”, i.e. pushed into the atmosphere and consumed once there at the end of their life, but they are rarely respected: “6% of satellites over 130 kg comply with the regulations” specifies Christophe Bonal. New Sufficient to provide a plethora of targets for missile testing.

Lasers, missiles, radio waves: the arsenal of space

Chasing Earth-scanning objects is indeed a problem that has become apparent to the general public in recent years, and the arsenal continues to grow. Thus, China sent a missile to destroy one of its old satellites, demonstrating its ability to reach these valuable orbital ships. Since then, other tests have been done in a more subtle way (the goal is to miss a satellite by a bit, so as not to cause ripples).

Russia is also working on satellites capable of changing orbits to meet targets. In 2014, the country launched a satellite, Kosmos 2499, suspected to be a satellite killer, a type of suicide bomber that would place itself in the orbit of a hostile object.

The US also has its space weapons, proven or presumed. In 2010, the US military succeeded in destroying a ballistic missile with a laser beam. More recently, in 2015, a private company announced that it was working on a drone equipped with a laser cannon, five times more powerful than this US Navy ship. And as always, as a result, the orbit is full of debris.

Fortunately, these so-called “kinetic” weapons (based on projectiles) may remain a rarity in this increasingly underground war. “Kinetic anti-satellite weapons are very expensive,” analyzed Bladen Bowen. “We must not forget that there are other methods: blinding a monitoring satellite, jamming radio waves, cyber attacks”, technologies on which, again, states are sharpening their weapons.

Glimpses of hope in this dark place, however. “There hasn’t been a nuclear explosion in space since 1963,” said the Leicester professor. In the midst of the Cold War, the United States, the USSR, and Great Britain signed a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere and in space. Today, it would be technically possible to send a nuclear missile to damage a fleet of satellites, but no country would risk it. for now

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