WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Monday that it is banning anti-satellite missile testing by the United States, a move that White House officials say is meant to underscore its hopes of establishing new standards of military action in space.
The United States has strongly criticized Russia and China for carrying out anti-satellite missile tests, although they also used an interceptor missile fired from a US Navy warship more than 14 years ago. to destroy a faulty spy satellite.
The issue took on added urgency after Russia launched a missile in November to destroy an old Soviet-era satellite. Vice President Kamala Harris criticized the Russian action as an “irresponsible act”. The strike created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk that increased the risk to American and Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong space station, according to the US Space Command.
Harris, who chairs the White House’s National Space Council, planned to discuss the United States’ commitment to banning anti-satellite missile testing and setting standards for space during a speech Monday night at Vandenberg Space Force Base on California’s central coast, according to the White House.
The Russian test came as it massed troops ahead of its latest invasion of Ukraine. The more than seven-week war left thousands dead and prompted the United States and its allies to hit Russia with massive economic sanctions.
A similar weapons test by China in 2007 also resulted in large-scale debris.
“The long-lived debris created by these tests now threatens satellites and other space objects that are vital to the security, economy and scientific interests of all nations, and increases the risks to astronauts in space. “, the White House said in a statement. “Taken together, these tests undermine the long-term sustainability of outer space and jeopardize the exploration and use of space by all nations.”
The Biden administration’s announcement to ban anti-satellite missile tests comes months after Harris announced at a meeting in December that White House National Security Council officials would work with officials from the Pentagon, the State Department and other US national security agencies to develop proposed standards for the national security space.
The United States is the first country to announce such a ban.
The type of direct-ascent weapon the Biden administration pledges not to fire relies on interceptor missiles that travel from the Earth’s surface to strike a satellite target hundreds of miles out in space.
Since the 1960s, the United States, China, India and Russia have conducted more than a dozen anti-satellite tests in space that have destroyed satellites and created more than 6,300 pieces of orbital debris, according to Secure. World Foundation, a non-governmental group that advocates for sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space.
At least 4,300 pieces of that debris are still in orbit today and pose long-term threats to human spaceflight, science and national security missions, and the future economic development of space, according to the foundation.
Anti-satellite missile tests by the United States in 2008 as well as one by India in 2019 targeted satellites at much lower altitudes, well below the space station at around 260 miles (420 kilometers).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the missile destruction of a satellite in low Earth orbit was intended to demonstrate India’s ability as a “space power” alongside the United States, Russia and China. China. He ordered the launch weeks before national elections.
Russia’s defunct Cosmos 1408 satellite was in orbit some 65 kilometers higher when it was destroyed in November by a missile fired from northern Russia.
Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, called the Biden administration’s decision an important one that puts pressure on China and Russia to take similar action.
“They’ve been making a lot of diplomatic noise over the last decade to prevent a space arms race, while testing their own (anti-satellite) weapons and creating orbital debris,” Weeden said of Russia and from China.
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