The leader of the U.S. Space Command has issued a statement condemning a Russian anti-satellite missile test that sent debris dangerously close to American astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The missile launch took place Nov. 15 Moscow time, striking a Russian satellite in low-Earth orbit. The blast generated more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris that led to the four American astronauts and one German astronaut aboard the ISS to seek shelter inside their docked space capsules.
“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander said in a statement.
“The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible,” he added.
The U.S. Space Command commander also noted that Russia’s actions “actively deny access” to America and other allies.
“Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of space by the United States and its allies and partners,” Dickinson said.
“Russia’s tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations,” he added.
The commander’s words were echoed in a statement on Twitter by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We condemn Russia’s reckless test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against its own satellite, creating space debris that risks astronauts’ lives, the integrity of the International Space Station, and the interests of all nations,” he wrote.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson also condemned the missile launch in a statement.
“Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety,” Nelson said.
“Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board,” he added.
Nelson further noted “all nations” must be responsible for the space debris resulting from their actions to continue a safe space environment.
“All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment,” Nelson said.
“NASA will continue monitoring the debris in the coming days and beyond to ensure the safety of our crew in orbit,” he added.