A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from the US Navy’s USS Lake Erie on a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite on February 20, 2008 as an anti-satellite weapon.
US Department of Defense
The US government has pledged to end the practice of anti-satellite missile testing, Vice President Kamala Harris announced Monday, urging other nations to follow suit.
An anti-satellite weapons test, or ASAT, is a military demonstration in which an orbiting spacecraft is destroyed using a missile system. Historically, countries conducting ASAT tests have done so by targeting their own assets in space.
Plans for the move were established. at the end of last year, after the Russian army destroyed a defunct satellite with an ASAT on November 15. The Russian test created thousands of pieces of debris in low Earth orbit and sent International Space Station astronauts into shelter as they passed through the shrapnel field.
During Harris’s first meeting in December as chairman of the National Space Council, the vice president directed the group to work with other agencies and create proposals that would establish new national security standards in space.
The US ASAT engagement, which coincides with Harris’s visit to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Tuesday, marks the first step in that effort. The White House stressed that “the United States is the first nation to make such a declaration” to end such tests.
To date, four countries (USA, Russia, China and India) have destroyed their own satellites in ASAT tests. The United States last destroyed a satellite in 2008, when the US Navy launched a modified SM-3 missile that intercepted the malfunctioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite USA-193.
Separately, the White House has continued to promote the Artemis Accords, an international agreement on space cooperation drafted by NASA and the State Department during the Trump administration. To date, 18 countries have signed the agreements, with nine joining since President Joe Biden took office.