A Call For The United States Government To Lead International Efforts To Prohibit The Use Of Debris-Creating Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASATs)

Fig. 4: Estimated volume of space occupied by debris fragments during first day following intercept, with color depicting the relative likelihood of a fragment occupying that portion of space. (Credit: COMSPOC/CSSI volumetric analysis, with rendering by AGI, an Ansys Company.)

An open letter by Planet co-founders, Will Marshall and Robbie Schingler

For the last ten years, Planet has raised concerns about the impact destructive anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) have on a healthy space ecosystem. ASATs threaten operations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), jeopardize astronauts’ safety, and risk destroying satellites that provide critical services to humanity. They are irresponsible. Today, we want to shed light on this important issue and urge the United States Government to lead an international effort to prohibit the use of debris-creating anti-satellite weapons (ASATs).

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Secure World Foundation Releases 2022 Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (SWF PR) — The Secure World Foundation (SWF) is proud to announce the release of its annual report, “Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment.” Edited by SWF Director of Program Planning Brian Weeden and Washington Office Director Victoria Samson, this report compiles and assesses publicly available information on the counterspace capabilities being developed by multiple countries across five categories: direct-ascent, co-orbital, electronic warfare, directed energy, and cyber. It assesses the current and near-term future capabilities for each country, along with their potential military utility. 

The full 2022 report and the Executive Summary, along with previous year’s editions, can be found at:  http://www.swfound.org/counterspace

Translations of the 2022 Executive Summary into French, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese will be available in May.

On Wednesday, April 20, 2022, from 09:00 – 10:30 EDT, SWF will co-host a hybrid event with experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to discuss their respective 2022 reports. More information about the event and RSVP can be found here: https://www.csis.org/events/tracking-developments-counterspace-weapons.

This is the fifth annual edition of the report, which is released in tandem with a similar report by CSIS. The 2022 edition of the report adds new developments through February 2022, adds three new countries to the report (Australia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom), and reorganizes the report to highlight those countries that have created orbital debris through counterspace testing.

Space Situational Assessment 2021: The Growing Menace of Space Debris

Credit: ISRO

BENGALULU, India (ISRO PR) — Growing collision threats of space objects including orbital debris with the operational space assets have become a perennial problem for the safe and sustainable use of outer space.  These threats restrict the unhindered access to space and prompt all space actors to take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

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DOD Leaders Say Russia, China Provide Challenges to National Security

A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Jan. 6, 2020, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket, carrying an installment of Starlink satellites, was the first official launch of the United States Space Force. (Credit: Air Force Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

By David Vergun
DOD News

Every operational plan in the Defense Department rests on an assumption that strategic deterrence is holding, and in particular, that nuclear deterrence is holding, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said. 

“If strategic or nuclear deterrence fails, no other plan and no other capability in the Department of Defense is going to work as designed,” Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, who testified today at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in review of the fiscal year 2023 Defense Authorization Request and Future Years Defense Program, said. 

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COMSPOC’s Latest Analyses of the Russian ASAT Event

Fig. 3: Depiction of spread velocity vectors for ASAT-generated debris fragments based upon SSN-tracked orbits. (Credit: COMSPOC)

EXTON, Pa. (COMSPOC PR) — Six weeks have elapsed since the Russian ASAT test occurred.  Previous posts by COMSPOC’s CSSI and others have examined the space objects currently tracked, how many of those have reentered, and why there might be slightly fewer fragments than can sometimes accompany such ASAT tests.  Yet there are some critical questions that remain: Specifically, which satellites are placed at greatest risk, where can the debris fragments go in the short-term based upon the velocities they experienced, how much will collision probabilities (and therefore spacecraft operator flight safety workloads) increase in the long-term, and how long will such fragments remain in orbit.  In this blog, we set out to answer all of those questions based on the latest published data.

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Russia Threatens to Destroy U.S. GPS Satellite Constellation

Global Positioning System (Credit: DOT&E)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Well, this was a rather frightening thing to wake up to this morning. GPS World reports:

The Kremlin warned it could blow up 32 GPS satellites with its new anti-satellite technology, ASAT, which it tested Nov. 15 on a retired Soviet Tselina-D satellite, according to numerous news reports.

On the state-run Channel One, host Dmitry Kiselyov warned that Russia’s anti-satellite missiles would leave the United States and NATO blind if the multi-national defense alliance “crosses our red line.”

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NASA Postpones Today’s Spacewalk Due to Debris Warning

Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The evening of Monday, Nov. 29, NASA received a debris notification for the International Space Station. Due to the lack of opportunity to properly assess the risk it could pose to the astronauts, teams have decided to delay the spacewalk planned for Tuesday, Nov. 30 until more information is available. The space station schedule and operations are able to easily accommodate the delay of the spacewalk. The latest information and future spacewalk dates will be shared on  https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation.


Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station  and  @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Editor’s Note: Although the NASA announcement doesn’t say so specifically, the debris is likely from a recent Russian anti-satellite test that destroyed a derelict Soviet military satellite. The resulting debris forced the seven occupants of the station to take shelter in their Soyuz and Crew Dragon return vehicles.

Committee Leaders Question Biden Administration’s Efforts to Address Space Debris Issues

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., ranking member and chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, today sent a letter requesting that Vice President Kamala Harris prioritize space debris issues in her role as chair of the National Space Council. The Senators also sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to inquire about the department’s outer space-related efforts following Russia’s destructive anti-satellite test two weeks ago.    

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European Union Commissioner, Secure World Foundation Condemn Russian ASAT Test

Thierry Breton
European Union Commissioner for Internal Market

As the European Union Commissioner in charge of EU Space policy and in particular of Galileo & Copernicus, I join the strongest condemnations expressed against the test conducted by Russia on Monday 15 Nov., which led to the destruction of a satellite in low orbit (COSMOS 1408).

This anti-satellite weapon test has caused the generation of a significant amount of debris of a size that could endanger the European Union’s space activities as well as those of our Member States.

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Russian Defense Ministry Boasts of ASAT Accuracy, Dismisses Orbital Debris Risk & Blames United States for Militarizing Space

Location of the 24,000 debris larger than 10 cm in low orbit in 2020. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite condemnation from Western governments, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu seemed rather pleased with the results of an anti-missile test (ASAT) test that destroyed a defunct Soviet satellite, scattered more than 1,500 pieces of debris in Earth orbit, and endangered the seven-member crew of the International Space Station (ISS). TASS reports:

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In Wake of ASAT Test, Roscosmos Says it’s in Favor of Space Safety

Russia broke its silence on Tuesday after the country’s military destroyed a non-functional satellite and sent cosmonauts and astronauts scrambling to the safety of vehicles that would take them back to Earth as the International Space Station flew near a cloud of debris.

While the Ministry of Defense boasted about the test’s accuracy, downplayed the dangers and accused the United States of ratcheting up military tensions in space, Roscosmos published a bland statement that basically said: Space safety? We’re in favor of it!

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USSPACECOM: Russian Direct-ascent Anti-satellite Missile Test Creates Significant, Long-lasting Space Debris

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo.  (U.S. Space Command PR) –  Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile on Nov. 15, 2021, Moscow Standard Time, that struck a Russian satellite [COSMOS 1408] and created a debris field in low-Earth orbit. The test so far has generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.

“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander. “The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.”

USSPACECOM’s initial assessment is that the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries’ satellites. USSPACECOM continues to monitor the trajectory of the debris and will work to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to safeguard their on-orbit activities if impacted by the debris cloud, a service the United States provides to the world, to include Russia and China.

“Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of  space by the United States and its allies and partners,” Dickinson added. “Russia’s tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations.”

NASA Administrator Nelson Condemns Russian ASAT Test, Decries Danger to ISS Crew

Bill Nelson

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Monday Moscow Standard Time, the International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control team was notified of indications of a satellite breakup that may create sufficient debris to pose a conjunction threat to the station. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released the following statement about the incident:

“Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety.

“Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. 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. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.

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Russia ASAT Test Destroys Old Satellite; ISS Crew Shelter in Return Capsules as Station Flies Near Orbital Debris

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

Updated on Nov. 15 at 4:35 PST with comments by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States has condemned a Russian anti-satellite test that destroyed a non-functioning 39-Soviet-era satellite that added more dangerous debris to Earth orbit.

“Earlier today, the Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “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.

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Raymond Describes U.S. Space Force Achievements, Plans, Challenges Ahead

Chief of Space Force Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond gives an update on the U.S. Space Force during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Md., Sept. 21, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Areca T. Wilson)

By Charles Pope
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) —Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond used a list of “firsts” and achievements across the Space Force’s brief history Sept. 21 to illustrate how the nation’s newest military service is “purpose built” for success at a time when the nation “can no longer take space for granted.” 

“Space is clearly a warfighting domain and we’re convinced that if deterrence were to fail, we’re going to have to fight and win the battle for space superiority,” Raymond told an audience of more than 2,000 during his keynote address at the Air Force Association Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. “Let me be clear; we don’t want to fight in space. We want to deter that from happening.” 

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