Exploded by Russia’s destruction of a satellite with a missile.. this is how the world is heading for an arms race in space

Washington- Russia destroyed a satellite with an anti-satellite missile a few days ago, and the United States condemned the test, which it said left thousands of dangerous pieces scattered in space, threatening the lives of crews of international space stations carrying out scientific and exploratory missions.

Serradata, a space tracking and data analysis company, stated that the Russian test hit the “Kosmos 1408” satellite, a satellite launched in the early 1980s, as part of a wide imaging and intelligence-gathering operation.

“On November 15, the Russian Defense Ministry successfully conducted an experiment, as a result of which the Tselina-D space object, which has been in orbit since 1982 and is inactive, was destroyed,” the Russian military said in a statement.

Al Jazeera Net reviews, in a question and answer, the reasons for the Russian move and its repercussions on the so-called “militarization of space”.

What are the reasons for Russia to take this step?

It is not clear to many experts and commentators why Russia is conducting this experiment at this time. In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, military expert David de Roche – the former warrior and assistant professor at the Center for Near East and South Asia at the National Defense University of the Ministry of Defense (Pentagon) – considered that Russia’s keenness to blackout the satellites that monitor its vast geographical area, will make it suffer More than others, there are thousands of pieces scattered in a low orbit, given the vast area of ​​the country and its low population density, which makes it an urgent need for satellites.

De Roche also pointed to the possibility that “this test was motivated by bureaucratic considerations, that a branch of the Russian armed forces was operating independently and far from adequate oversight, and wanted to prove to the higher commands its capabilities and importance, and thus justify its financial allocations.”

Whatever the motive, this was a bad move for Russia, and other commentators believe that Russia delivered a clear message from its experience to the United States, with its growing missile capabilities reaching outer space.

How was the American reaction, and how did Russia respond?

The United States condemned the experiment as “dangerous and irresponsible”, as it endangered the lives of the astronauts. Russia denies ever endangering any spacecraft or astronauts.

The head of the US Space Command, General James Dickinson, said – in a statement – that “Russia has shown a willful disregard for the long-term security, safety, stability and sustainability of the space domain for all countries.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry denied Washington’s accusations, saying that “the United States knows for sure that the resulting fragments – in terms of test time and orbital parameters – did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.”

For his part, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed Russia’s success in testing a new anti-satellite system, and Shoigu told reporters during a military tour that his country had skillfully hit an old satellite, as he put it, adding that the fragments formed after the bombing do not pose any threat to the activity. space alien.

Are there international laws governing the military use of space?

More than 100 countries have signed a 1967 agreement called the Outer Space Treaty, which stipulates that countries should consult with each other before doing anything that could lead to “potentially harmful interference” in the activities of other countries.

The treaty prohibits – in particular – placing nuclear weapons or any other type of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, and placing such weapons on any celestial body.

The pursuit of multilateral agreements on testing anti-satellite and debris-generating missiles has become a necessity, stymied by the divergent approaches of the United States on the one hand, and Russia, China and India on the other.

Pentagon experts note that there is a need to develop new standards in space, and the US administration should explore a ban on such tests among the four countries that have demonstrated capabilities in this area: China, India, Russia, and the United States.

Has the world previously witnessed similar experiences?

Russia is not the first country to develop and test “anti-satellite missiles” (ASATs), which are designed to strike enemy satellites.

In 2007, China tested a weapon similar to the one that Russia launched on Monday, and the results were similar, and the United States tested a similar experiment in 2008, while India also conducted a similar experiment in 2019.

What is the importance of satellites to the United States?

The United States and much of the world depend on satellites for most of modern day civilian life, from GPS to maps and daily communications, and they are critical to military surveillance and commercial civil aviation.

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, former intelligence officer Rebecca Kofler stated that the Russians “know that America’s superior space capability is its weak point, due to the almost complete dependence of the American military on it. American forces in war zones depend on a constellation of 31 “A satellite, to determine target locations, synchronize operations, identify targets, and even locate personnel. Therefore, Moscow seeks to deafen and blind the eyes of American forces in any future conflict, by attacking American satellites, and the Russians will try to compensate for superior American conventional firepower.”

What are the biggest dangers of the Russian experience?

A Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study reported that the satellite’s body fragmented into more than 23,000 small pieces of debris, most over 10 centimeters in diameter, along with thousands of smaller, untracked fragments. These objects move at a tremendous speed, with an average of 8 kilometers per second.

As the amount of debris grows and orbits become more crowded, the potential for collisions also increases. Since collisions create new debris, the possibility of new collisions increases the number of fragments scattered in space, which increases the risks of access to space, while at the same time it is difficult to ensure the safety and security of astronauts.

What is the significance of the Russian experience for geostrategic considerations?

This is the first time that Russia has demonstrated its ability to hit a satellite using an Earth-launched missile.

How would America and its allies respond to this “irresponsible act”, as it has been described?

De Roche noted, “The United States has strong capabilities and is much more powerful than the rest of its competitors in the field of space, but the whole field is still young.

The problem with this particular test is not the use of a weapon, but rather the creation of a field of metal fragments that will remain in orbit for a very long time, with the ability to destroy civilian satellites, at a time when the developed world is more dependent on satellites than other countries, so the On the whole, this Russian action will have a greater impact on the West.

De Roche believes that the most important question is whether the Biden administration has the political will to confront Russia over space weapons. So far, the main action the Biden administration has taken with Russia is to suspend sanctions on the Nordstream gas pipeline to Europe, and this is a huge victory for Putin.

Given Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine, the Biden administration may choose not to respond to a space provocation in order to facilitate negotiations over Ukraine.

Why did the United States create a military space command in 2019?

In August 2019, former President Donald Trump announced the launch of a US military space command at the Pentagon, tasked with ensuring US hegemony threatened by China and Russia, amid global warnings of the militarization of space. The Pentagon plans that this new command will supervise space, satellites and high-flying aircraft.

During the inauguration ceremony of this command, Trump said, “The Spacecom leadership will ensure that American dominance in space will never be threatened. The new command will defend America’s vital interest in space, the field of the next war, and we will deter aggressively any aggression and ensure our superiority over all competitors by far. “.

While the White House confirmed at the time that the Space Command “will actively employ dedicated forces from each military weapon, to accomplish direct missions in the space field.”

Russia criticized Washington’s establishment of the new military command, and considered it a prelude to the militarization of the cosmic space to use it to achieve its military purposes, and Moscow stressed that it would have to respond to potential threats with identical measures and measures.

Are we in the midst of an arms race in space?

Yes, there is indeed a space arms race, and the only question here is: who is in the race and who is sitting on the sidelines. China, Russia, India and the United States have tested anti-satellite weapons, leaving a large amount of debris in space, which affects the peaceful use of satellites.

It is believed that investment in the development of these programs will continue, but it is likely that Western countries will not test space weapons in general, and will stop dissuading others – notably China, Russia and India – from conducting further tests due to the huge potential economic benefits of the peaceful use of space.

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