Human WorldSpaceflight

Russia threatens attacks on civilian satellites

Russia: Soldiers taking photo of spacecraft being moved to the launch pad.
Russian security team members take a photo as the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft rolls out to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Sunday, May 13, 2012. The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft carried Expedition 31 personnel to the International Space Station. This week, Russia declared private satellites used for military purposes could be legitimate targets. Image via: NASA/ Bill Ingalls.

Russia threatens attacks on civilian satellites

A senior Russian diplomat said this week they may target commercial satellite systems for destruction. That includes the SpaceX’s Starlink constellation. That’s because countries such as Ukraine make use of them to fend off hostile invading armies.

Konstantin Vorontsov is the deputy head of the Russian Federation’s delegation to the United Nations. He made the lightly-veiled threat during an address to the UN’s General Assembly on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. The assembly was discussing disarmament in outer space when Vorontsov accused Russia’s supposed enemies of threatening the balance of peace.

And Russia’s permanent mission to the UN reprinted his remarks online:

Western actions needlessly put at risk the sustainability of peaceful space activities, as well as numerous social and economic processes on Earth that affect the well-being of people, first of all in developing countries.

Ghosts of the Cold War

Plus, the Russian delegate pointed the finger directly at the Soviet Union’s former Cold War adversary in the statement:

Namely, the use by the United States and its allies of civilian, including commercial, infrastructure elements in outer space for military purposes. Apparently, these States do not realize that such actions in fact constitute indirect participation in military conflicts.

Then came the threat:

Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.

The Russian said the latest developments in the country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine highlight the effective military use of private satellites. He did not name SpaceX specifically.

Russia, China blew up own sats

In fact, on Wednesday, the Russians called for “a complete and comprehensive ban on strike weapons in outer space for use against space objects”. And it has been less than a year since the country targeted a defunct Soviet-era spy satellite for destruction. That was in November of 2021.

Then just this week, they had to adjust the orbit of the International Space Station. Because it was in the path of debris from the 2021 test of Russia’s ability to destroy a satellite in orbit.

By the way, the explosion of Cosmos 1408 created more than 1,500 of trackable pieces of debris. As well as hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces, the U.S. State Department said at the time. That test followed a 2007 satellite demolition by China, which destroyed its own Fengyun-1C satellite. Thus, creating another 3,000 pieces of large space debris. That explosion also required a change in the ISS’s orbit.

Bottom line: Russia said on October 26, 2022, that civilian satellites could become legitimate military targets.

October 27, 2022
Human World

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