The USA and UK have alleged that Russia last week trialled an in-orbit satellite-killer weapon.
US Space Force chief of operations General John Raymond put his name to a statement that says on July 15th Russia “injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543”, a satellite that Moscow insists is a maintenance vehicle but which the USA believes is a weapons platform.
Cosmos 2543 sidled up to another Russian satellite before releasing the object that moved at around 700 km/h.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence popped up a Tweet about the incident:
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) July 23, 2020
The Outer Space Treaty prohibits the use of weapons in space, so if Moscow has conducted a weapons test it has been very naughty indeed. However it is widely believed that several nations posses missiles that could reach space to attack satellites.
Such attacks are important because satellite play a significant role assisting and directing terrestrial conflicts.
Moscow loves a show of force: in 2018 it revealed hypersonic warheads, a nuclear-powered submarine drone, cruise missiles with nearly unlimited range, and a ground-based laser weapon, but claimed none would be used for anything other than retaliation.
Whatever it was that Cosmos 2543 launched appears to have been rather less exotic