Space war: Russia fires weapon into orbit leaving UK ‘deeply vulnerable’

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The head of the UK military’s space directorate said the weapon’s debris jeopardises satellites that are vital for the planet. The weapon was launched from Russia’s Cosmos 2543 satellite last week and it came close to a Russian satellite.

A US statement said the launch was ‘“another example that the threats to US and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing”.

It is an unprecedented accusation by the British and American military towards Russia of conducting an anti-satellite weapons drill in space.

The Kremlin has previously carried out low-level tests with weapons in orbit but nothing of this proportion.

One UK defence source said: “This is using a satellite as a space weapon.

“It is a step in the direction of turning space into a new frontline.”

A second added: “They’ve crossed a line when it comes to the scale of this.”

The UK relies on satellites in many key areas, including communications, navigation and weather forecasting.

Ministers have previously warned an enemy nation could risk the response of the emergency services by attacking satellites.

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In a statement released Wednesday, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, chief of the Ministry of Defence’s space directorate, said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.

“Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.”

He added: “We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing.

“We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

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Cosmos 2543 was fired into orbit on a Soyuz rocket that was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in north-west Russia on November 26.

A second satellite was linked to it, which separated from it 11 days after the release.

US President Donald Trump said in a phone call last night to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he hoped they could avert “an expensive three-way arms race” between the US, China and Russia.

General John Raymond, head of US space command, said it was “consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and allied space assets at risk”.

The US State Department has expressed its concerns that Russian satellites have traits of a “space-based weapon”.

Dr Christopher Ford, the US assistant secretary of state, said: “This event highlights Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control, with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the UK was “deeply vulnerable” in space.

He added: “The threat against space is regretfully real, our adversaries are weaponizing space and we are deeply vulnerable in the West from those types of actions because we rely so much on space assets.”

“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and allied space assets at risk.”

The UK said the firing of the projectile “with the characteristics of a weapon” and warned that it could “threaten the peaceful use of space”.

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