The US administration states that it is banning anti-satellite missile testing by the United States. Such step, according to the US officials say, is meant to express their hopes of establishing new norms for military action in space.
The U.S. has sharply criticized Russia and China for conducting anti-satellite missile tests, although it also used an interceptor missile fired from a U.S. Navy warship more than 14 years ago to destroy a malfunctioning spy satellite.
The issue is one that’s taken on greater urgency after Russia in November launched a missile to destroy a defunct Soviet-era satellite.
Vice President Kamala Harris, in a speech Monday at Vandenberg Space Force Base on the central coast of California to highlight the administration’s move, criticized the Russian action as “reckless” and “irresponsible.” Harris labelled such tests as dangerous and stated that the US will not conduct them.
Harris stressed that the debris created by the missile tests threatens not only astronauts and U.S. military interests but also could impact commercial satellites that the world relies on for weather forecasts, GPS systems that help drivers navigate streets, television broadcasts and critical infrastructure.
The kind of direct-ascent weapon that the Biden administration is committing not to fire relies on interceptor missiles that travel from the Earth’s surface to strike a satellite target hundreds of miles into space.
Since the 1960s, the United States, China, India and Russia have conducted more than a dozen anti-satellite tests in space that destroyed satellites and created more than 6,300 pieces of orbital debris, according to the Secure World Foundation, a nongovernmental 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.