Space Force on alert: Behind Russia’s mysterious testing of deadly anti-satellite weapons in orbit

Space Wars: it might soon leave the realm of science fiction and become a reality.
Last week, the head of the U.S.’s newest military branch, the Space Force, cautioned publicly for the first time that Moscow had undertaken at least two concerning anti-satellite weapon tests in recent months, in a potential bid to develop on-orbit efficiency that could dangerously hinder the U.S.’s heavy dependency on space-based systems.
“On July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543,” the U.S. Space Force said in a statement. “Russia released this object in proximity to another Russian satellite, (which was) inconsistent with the system’s stated mission as an inspector satellite.”
While Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed the allegation, it is not the first time the Pentagon has said such an incident occurred.
Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, further highlighted that the Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same onr they “raised concerns about earlier this year when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite.”
“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold the U.S. and allied space assets at risk,” Raymond continued.
The proclamation that these satellites are part of a space-based anti-satellite weapon system is even more significant given that Cosmos 2542 had moved into a position to shadow a U.S. KH-11 spy satellite, publicly identified only as USA 245, in January, The Drive’s War Zone analysis pointed out.
A month earlier, the USA 245 satellite was forced to move its own orbit to avoid a collision with the notorious 2543, which the U.S. Space Force believes was also trailing the American asset. Then in April this year, Space Force also raised red flags that the Kremlin had conducted testing of an unspecified “direct-ascent anti-satellite missile,” also known as a DS-ASAT, from its Plesetsk base in northern Russia.
“Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to the U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Raymond said in a statement after that incident. “The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our allies and U.S. interests from hostile acts in space.”
While no targets were destroyed in either the April or July experiments, the pattern – coupled with the notion of two Russian satellites following an American spy satellite – is enough to stir up some anxieties.
“If we stick to the U.S. version, the Russians now have a means for using small satellites to intercept a target in orbit and destroy it,” Miguel Miranda, an Asia-based arms and security expert, told Fox News. “This is a serious capability because the U.S. military’s biggest advantage over its rivals is an immense command and control plus intelligence and surveillance network orbiting our planet. Without it, the U.S. military suffers and struggles to fulfill its mission.”
Moreover, the U.S. State Department underscored that matter both in 2018 and again in 2020, saying that “Russian satellite behaviors were inconsistent with their stated mission and that these satellites displayed characteristics of a space-based weapon,” and characterizing the behavior as “hypocritical and concerning.”
Eugene Gholz, an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, also emphasized that – if accurate – it is no small matter.
“The capability to weaken U.S. military satellite constellations would inhibit the U.S. military’s ability to project power far from the U.S. homeland – that is, space is an essential part of the U.S. military’s infrastructure for operations against countries like Russia, China and Iran. The United States uses space-based intelligence gathering to understand threats to the U.S. homeland (for defense), but the U.S. also uses a lot of space-based capability to enable the …