US vice President Kamala Harris calls on other nations to stop destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing
|The American vice President Kamala Harris has called on all nations to stop missile tests against space satellites.
VP Harris made the comments at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Monday, where she also pledged the United States will halt what it calls ‘Destructive Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite Missile Testing.’
There is a good reason for the US call for nations to stop using missiles to destroy satellites, as space debris is a growing problem and severe risk for all operations in low earth orbit.
“Today at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States commits not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing, and that the United States seeks to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behaviour in space,” said the White House.
It comes as the US seeks to develop space norms that advance US interests and preserve the security and sustainability of space.
“The destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible,” said the White House.
“The long-lived debris created by these tests now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests, and increases risk to astronauts in space,” it said. “Overall, these tests jeopardise the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations.”
“The United States, working with commercial industry, allies, and partners, will lead in the development of new measures that contribute to the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of space activities,” it said.
“Overall, through this new commitment and other actions, the United States will demonstrate how space activities can be conducted in a responsible, peaceful, and sustainable manner.”
In November Russia was heavily criticised for blowing up a satellite in orbit, creating a dangerous debris cloud which can be lethal to astronauts when on a space walk.
China likewise conducted a similar test in 2007.
There is little doubt that space debris and clutter is a growing problem, as there are reportedly nearly 30,000 satellites and other debris believed to be orbiting the planet.
Governments are being urged to share location data to reduce the risk of catastrophic space collisions.
Last December SpaceX and Elon Musk were criticised, when China alleged that its space station was forced to take evasive action so as to avoid a collision with Starlink satellites.
Then in February this year, SpaceX confirmed that at least 40 of its Starlink satellites were destroyed, after a geomagnetic space storm.
It seems that 49 satellites were deployed into their intended orbit, approximately 210 kilometers (130 miles) above the Earth, and each satellite achieved controlled flight.
But the deployed satellites were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm, which damaged at least 40 satellites and SpaceX could not activate them from their safe-mode.
Those damaged satellites were eventually destroyed when they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and burnt up.