U.S. accuses Russia of launching ‘Counter-Space Weapon,’ escalating tensions

According to Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder, a Russian satellite fired into low-Earth orbit on May 16 is believed to be a weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites operating in that orbital range.

Escalating tensions over the militarization of space, the U.S. Department of Defense accused Russia on Wednesday of launching a new “counter-space weapon” into Earth’s orbit that could potentially threaten American government satellites.

According to Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder, a Russian satellite fired into low-Earth orbit on May 16 is believed to be a weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites operating in that orbital range.

The explosive claim is just the latest accusation between Washington and Moscow that the other is taking aggressive steps to develop anti-satellite weapons and militarize space.

It comes on the heels of Russia leading a push at the United Nations to pass a resolution banning weapons from outer space, an effort the U.S. blocked through a veto after Russia struck down a similar U.S. proposal last month.

Before that failed U.N. vote, the U.S. Alternative Representative for Special Affairs Robert Wood accused Moscow of advancing nefarious interplanetary ambitions by covertly developing anti-satellite weapons, possibly including thing like this new “counter-space weapon.

Russia has denied any such secret program exists aimed at fielding space-based armaments that could attack satellites belonging to other nations. The Kremlin has sought to portray its stance as one promoting the peaceful use of space.

But the statement indicates U.S. military observers have catalogued Russian progress developing spacecraft equipped with sensors, robotic arms, or other payloads potentially capable of tracking, rendezvous with, or even grappling and disabling other satellites.

Such co-orbital anti-satellite weaponry could allow Russia to degrade or destroy key U.S. national security satellite constellations during a future conflict, leveling a critical American military and intelligence advantage.

With both Moscow and Washington now trading accusations of developing these types of space warfare capabilities, the final frontier appears increasingly vulnerable to an escalating arms race.