Russia tested an anti-satellite missile to go along with its space-based killer satellite in a move that drew a rebuke from U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs and adds more chill to the orbital Cold War.
"The United States is concerned by Russia’s continued development and deployment of several types of ground-based and space-based anti-satellite weapons," the command said in a news release early Wednesday. "These actions are contrary to Russia’s diplomatic and public stance against the weaponization of space. Specifically, Russia has demonstrated two completely different types of space weapons."
Russia's defense ministry made no announcement of an anti-satellite test, but did post a picture to Twitter claiming to be the deployment of a hypersonic weapons system to Orenburg, a city in the southern Urals region.
Space Command warned that while the Russian weapons test didn't hit a satellite, "If this weapon is tested on an actual satellite or used operationally, it will cause a large debris field that could endanger commercial satellites and irrevocably pollute the space domain."
Space Command, which is provisionally headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, manages all U.S. military space missions. The command's primary duty is to defend American and allied satellites while preventing wars from reaching orbit.
The command was brought back into existence in 2018 amid growing concern over anti-satellite programs in several countries, with China and Russia topping the list.
"Russia publicly claims it is working to prevent the transformation of outer space into a battlefield, yet at the same time Moscow continues to weaponize space by developing and fielding on-orbit and ground-based capabilities that seek to exploit U.S. reliance on space-based systems,” Army Gen. James Dickinson, who heads Space Command, said in an email. “Russia’s persistent testing of these systems demonstrates threats to U.S. and allied space systems are rapidly advancing."
The Russian test follows U.S. accusations that hackers tied to that nation's military penetrated U.S. government computer networks at agencies including the Department of Homeland Security.
In the past, Russia has responded to similar accusations with military saber-rattling, including sending bombers to buzz Alaska's coastline.
Russia, like the United States, first developed anti-satellite weapons during the Cold War and has shown off its capabilities with a string of anti-satellite missile tests in recent years. Russia also has a killer satellite that Space Command said is designed to attack spacecraft in orbit and a ground-based laser that could be used to target satellites.
"This pattern of behavior would be considered potentially threatening in any other domain," the command said.
The Russian test comes as Pentagon leaders work to determine where Space Command will be permanently housed. Evaluators on Wednesday were scheduled to meet with Colorado Springs leaders in their bid to keep the command in the Pikes Peak region.
Colorado Springs, which was named the provisional home of the command in May, is one of six finalists under evaluation. A decision is expected as soon as next month.