Satellites

Anti-Satellite Weapons Will Threaten Everyone’s Access to Space

It’s a headline straight out of the movies yet the White House has recently confirmed it believes that Russia is building space-based anti-satellite weapon! There seems to be no conclusive evidence what this might be but one option may be a nuclear bomb that would indiscriminately wipe out satellites within a huge volume of space! Not only would it devastate satellites but would cause more problems down on the surface and create a whole load of space junk. 

In a statement, the National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that he did not believe the weapon had an ‘active capability’ yet and further went on to say he did not believe it had even been deployed. He went on to say that the White House was monitoring Russian activity and would continue to take it very seriously. 

Launching such a nuclear weapon into space would violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which countries of the United Nations, including Russia, signed. It prohibits putting nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction into space, on the Moon or on any other celestial object. Such an act would likely prompt sanctions from other nations and further compound the situation faced by Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Note that such a device wouldn’t even actually need to be used, just deploying it into space would be sufficient to violate the Treaty. 

A spokesperson from Moscow has denied the existence of such a program suggesting it was “malicious fabrication” that has been created by the American political teams. The Kremlin went on to suggest that such a fabrication might coerce the Congress to pass a $97 billion foreign aid bill which includes $60 million for Ukraine. 

Tempting though such a nuclear device might seem to any countries wishing to unleash devastation to other nations, the impacts can be far reaching. The destruction of any object in orbit will create a whole debris field with components ranging from a few millimetres to several centimetres. At the moment, there are several hundreds of millions of pieces of space debris being tracked from Earth. The high velocity items drifting around pose a threat to other satellites still in operation and even the International Space Station which has had to apply course directions to avoid collisions. 

Should Russia have, and launch and subsequently detonate a nuclear device in space, they would not only be putting themselves at risk of more sanctions but also be putting their own satellites at risk! It’s almost impossible to control the path of space debris so a detonation would generate more that would undoubtedly destroy some of Russia’s own satellites. 

It may be some time before we know for certain whether Russia are planning a nuclear capability in space. The one hope is that they recognise the risk to their own, and other supportive countries space assets. Taking out a bunch of US or western satellites is one thing but the subsequent debris taking out their own infrastructures and those of other supportive nations may have repercussions that are quite unpalatable.  Even if the space debris does not knock out other satellites, it is certainly going to make it even harder for us to travel beyond the confines of the Earth due to the sheer volume of high velocity fragments orbiting the planet.

Source : Russia’s space weapon: anti-satellite systems are indiscriminate, posing a risk to everyone’s spacecraft

Mark Thompson

Recent Posts

The Milky Way’s History is Written in Streams of Stars

The Milky Way is ancient and massive, a collection of hundreds of billions of stars,…

2 hours ago

The Current Mars Sample Return Mission isn’t Going to Work. NASA is Going Back to the Drawing Board

Hmmm spaceflight is not the easiest of enterprises. NASA have let us know that their…

7 hours ago

Peter Higgs Dies at 94

Just like Isaac Newton, Galileo and Albert Einstein, I’m not sure exactly when I became…

11 hours ago

More Views of the 2024 Eclipse, from the Moon and Earth Orbit

It's been just over a week since millions of people flocked to places across North…

16 hours ago

Baby Stars Discharge “Sneezes” of Gas and Dust

I’m really not sure what to call it but a ‘dusty sneeze’ is probably as…

21 hours ago

How Did Pluto Get Its Heart? Scientists Suggest an Answer

The most recognizable feature on Pluto is its "heart," a relatively bright valentine-shaped area known…

22 hours ago