The man in charge of the space programmes in the UK has publicly criticised Russia for the test launch of a satellite “with the characteristics of a weapon”
In an unusual intervention, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth said Russia’s actions could “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 in a tweet: “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.”
Air Vice-Marshal Smyth’s comments mark the first time that the Ministry of Defence has publicly criticised Russia’s actions in space.
This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Members of Parliaments that there was “no smoking gun” in the now-released Russia report, as opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed that the Prime Minister “sat on” the “extremely serious” report.
The object was launched into orbit from Cosmos 2543 which Russia lists as an “inspector satellite”. This is not the first time that Russia has carried out a test of this kind, and it’s feared that the state is developing a weapon based in space.
The United States has referred to the Russian satellite test as a “hostile act” and said that it is “concerning”. The test, which took place last Wednesday, but it has only just been made public knowledge.
Not many details are yet known of the specifications of the projectile fired from the satellite, but the United States Space Force has described the object as a “non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon”.
A UK defence source told Sky News it had “crossed a line”.
They said: “Although Russia has carried out tests similar to this before, they never done one on this scale. This is one step closer to the weaponisation of space. Star wars is closer to reality.”
General John Raymond, head of US Space Command, told Sky News:
“The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite.”
“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 U.S. and allied space assets at risk.”
This comes after ministers reportedly “did not want to know” if Russia had meddled in the EU referendum vote, an MP says, as the government dismisses an investigation.
Russia has also been carrying out testing of their ground based missile systems that are designed to shoot down satellites. A system that is known as Nudol and has been tested more than ten times in the past five years.
The Nudol system is made up of a mobile land vehicle armed with a ballistic missile, that is capable of driving around and launching the weapon from various locations on the planet.