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Pentagon says Russia ‘likely’ launched space weapon

by editor

The United States has blamed Russia for launching a spacecraft capable of attacking satellites in orbit, the Pentagon said late Tuesday as tensions over space weaponry ramp up.

“Russia launched a satellite into low Earth orbit that we assess is likely a counter space weapon,” the Pentagon’s spokesman Pat Ryder said, adding that the spacecraft was dispatched “into the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite.”

With satellites critical for communications, geolocation and even observing climate change, militaries have woken up to the importance of defending their assets.

For example, lasers could be used to flood satellite optical sensors with light, blinding or, in counterspace-speak, dazzling imaging satellites; while snooping on satellite comms can also pose a problem. France has accused Russia of trying to listen in on the Athena-Fidus satellite it shares with Italy.

This year, U.S. officials briefed that Russia was developing a type of nuclear anti-satellite weapon, a revelation that sparked consternation among space policy wonks due to the cataclysmic impact on the global economy a detonation would have.

Efforts to find agreement at the United Nations on the posting of weaponry in space continued this week, with Russia and China blocking previous attempts to ban the development of weapons of mass destruction in orbit.

On Monday, a counterproposal from Moscow was also voted down, with Algeria, Ecuador, China, Guyana, Mozambique and Sierra Leone voting alongside Russia; and France, Japan, Malta, South Korea, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. voting against.

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