White House commits to no more destructive anti-satellite tests

During remarks at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Vice President Kamala Harris said that the US would take a stance and no longer conduct destructive anti-satellite tests and hopes to lead the globe on the “rules and norms” of space.

United States will no longer conduct anti-satellite tesets

While the Vice President failed to acknowledge the US’s history of destroying satellites in orbit, she was quick to attack China and Russia’s ASAT tests in recent years. Rightfully so, as Russia’s ASAT test from last November and China’s from 2007 have been the worst of the pack, but the US is hardly free of wrongdoings.

In a strong statement, Vice President Harris said the US would end such tests as the risk to American and worldwide assets is too great. The Vice President also stated that the US would start working on bringing other nations on board to make the same pledge, praising the success of NASA’s Artemis Accords.

We have consistently condemned these tests and called them reckless. But that is not enough. Today we are going further.  I am pleased to announce that as of today, the United States commits not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing.

Simply put: These tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them.

Vice President Kamala Harris

Debris from China and Russia’s ASAT test still threaten us today

Last November, Russia conducted an ASAT test on one of its old spy satellites. This test destroyed the satellite and scattered debris between 190 and 680 miles in altitude. This also caused concern for the International Space Station, of which Russia is a partner and had two cosmonauts on board. For safety, crews had to shelter in their spacecraft in case of a debris strike.

While previous Russian ASAT test debris has since been deorbited, due to the height and energy of this one, a lot of this debris will stay in orbit for a long time. This means it will continue to cause a risk to other spacecraft and satellites in the future. However, nothing comes close to the negligence in space safety as China’s ASAT test in 2007.

At an altitude of 537 miles, a large defunct Chinese weather satellite called Fengyun-1C was destroyed by a ground-based rocket. The debris cloud caused by this test alone consisted of over 40,000 pieces larger than 1 cm. Debris still exists in orbit and will for a very long time to come.

Hopefully, the Vice President’s words help stop these tests as each one increases the difficulty of getting to space. We said this before, but words can’t get the job done alone. Hopefully, we will see treaties with real consequences written up for nations to join.

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