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April 20, 2022

US to end direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing

The direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles are designed to destroy spacecraft orbiting the Earth.

The US has committed to ending destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing to encourage responsible behaviour in space.

The self-imposed ban is the first of its kind by a country.

The move was announced by US Vice-President Kamala Harris at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

She also urged other nations to make similar commitments to establish the ban as a standard.

The direct-ascent ASAT missiles are designed to destroy spacecraft orbiting the Earth.

However, such tests generate dangerous debris in space threatening other satellites and orbital objects.

Russia conducted a similar test in November 2021 when it destroyed a defunct satellite with an ASAT. The test created at least 1,632 pieces of debris, Reuters reported citing data from the US Space Force database of orbital objects.

China also conducted a similar test in 2007.

In a statement, The White House said: “The destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible.

“The long-lived debris created by these tests now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests, and increases risk to astronauts in space. Overall, these tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations.”

During the National Space Council meeting in December, Vice-President Harris directed the National Security Council to work with other agencies and devise proposals for national security space regulations that are aligned with US interests while safeguarding space security.

The commitment to end ASAT missile testing is part of the effort.

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