The USA and UK have alleged that Russia last week tested 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 15, 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 operation:
Interestingly enough, the Outer Space Treaty, which Russia is signed up to, frowns upon the unexpected use of weapons in space, stating:
If a State Party to the Treaty has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by it or its nationals in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities of other States Parties in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, it shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with any such activity or experiment.
Thus, if Moscow conducted a weapons test without warning, it has been rather naughty – unless it genuinely thought nothing could go wrong.
It's also worth noting it is widely believed that several nations posses missiles that could reach space to attack satellites. Such attacks could be game-changing 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. ®