Russia denies testing anti-satellite weapon in space

24 July 2020, 23:01

President Vladimir Putin during during a meeting of the National Security Council
President Vladimir Putin during during a meeting of the National Security Council. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Russia has denied claims by the US and Britain that it tested an anti-satellite weapon in space.

US and British officials claimed on Thursday that the test of an anti-satellite weapon on 15 July signalled a continuing Russian effort to develop technologies that could threaten space assets of the United States and its allies.

The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations, saying in a statement that the July 15 experiment did not threaten any other space objects and complied with the international law.

It described the claims as part of an "information campaign to discredit Russia's space activities and its peaceful initiatives aimed at preventing an arms race in space".

Asked to comment on the US and British accusations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "Russia has always been and remains a country committed to complete demilitarisation of space and non-deployment of any types of weapons in space."

Russia's Defence Ministry previously stated that the July 15 event involved "a small space vehicle" that "inspected one of the national satellites from a close distance using special equipment".

The ministry added that the inspection "provided valuable information about the object that was inspected, which was transmitted to the ground-based control facilities".

But US military officials said the Russian activity was inconsistent with the stated mission of an inspector satellite

"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 manoeuvred near a US government satellite," said Air Force Gen John W Raymond, commander of the United States Space Command.

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In a space strategy document published last month, the Pentagon asserted that "China and Russia present the greatest strategic threat due to their development, testing, and deployment of counterspace capabilities and their associated military doctrine for employment in conflict extending to space".

Russia's military said in December that it conducted an experiment with a small satellite that separated from a carrier "space platform".

It said the vehicle transmitted images to assess the "technical condition" of another Russian satellite as part of the experiment. It described the test as part of an ongoing effort to check the condition of satellites.

Several other Russian "inspector" satellites were launched earlier with the same stated purpose and they performed orbital tests.