Russian missiles prove that space is already a battlefield

Space – Over 1500 new debris in low orbit around Earth. The results of a 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 while flying at relatively high altitudes.

however, You can watch in 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 inactive 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, an expert on warfare in the space sector at the University of Leicester (Great Britain). “Russia has done so many tests 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, a 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 remains 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 regulations that require satellites to be “decommissioned”, i.e. pushed into the atmosphere at the end of their life to be consumed once there, but this is rarely respected: “6% of satellites over 130 kg comply with the regulations” Christophe Bonnal specified. enough to provide a plethora of targets for new missile tests.

Lasers, missiles, radio waves: the arsenal of space

Chasing the world 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 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 always, as a result, orbit 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,” Bledin Bowen analyzed. “We must not forget that there are other methods: blinding of an observation satellite, jamming of radio waves, cyber attacks”, technologies on which, again, states are sharpening their weapons.

This is a glimmer of hope in an already dark place, nevertheless. “There hasn’t been a nuclear explosion in space since 1963,” the Leicester professor said. 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

See also The HuffPost: French Space Intelligence Moves Forward With CERES Spy Satellite

Leave a Comment