Russia admits destroying satellite with space missile strike

MOSCOW: Russia has admitted to destroying one of its satellites during a missile test, but rejected US accusations that it had endangered the International Space Station.

US officials on Monday accused Russia of a “dangerous and irresponsible” strike on a satellite that had created a cloud of debris and forced the ISS crew to take evasive action.

The move reignited concerns about an escalating arms race in space, encompassing everything from laser weapons to satellites capable of shunting others out of orbit.

The Russian defence ministry said it had “successfully conducted a test, as a result of which the Russian spacecraft ‘Tselina-D’, which had been in orbit since 1982, was destroyed.”

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu later said the launch used a “promising” system that “accurately” struck its target.

“The fragments that formed do not pose any threat to space activity,” he added, as quoted by Russian news agencies.

US officials said they were not informed in advance of the anti-satellite missile test — only the fourth ever to hit a spacecraft from the ground — which generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the danger was far from over and the debris would continue to threaten satellites and activities on the ISS.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday described the test as a “reckless” and “concerning” act.

“It demonstrates that Russia is now developing new weapon systems that can shoot down satellites,” he said at a meeting with EU defence ministers.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Twitter lashed out at “space vandals” who were producing dangerous amounts of debris.

Germany’s foreign ministry said it was “very concerned” about the missile test and called for urgent measures to “strengthen security and confidence”.