The United States has committed not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests, making it the first nation to make such a commitment, announced Vice President Kamala Harris in a speech at the Vandenberg Space Force Base.
The Biden administration is making this voluntary commitment in an effort to foster “responsible behavior in space,” said Vice President Harris.
The new declaration comes after Russia in November conducted an anti-satellite missile test that destroyed its Cosmos-1408 satellite, a soviet-era spacecraft that's been in orbit since the 1980s. In 2007, China conducted a similar test. These tests are part of their efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons systems.
“These weapons are intended to deny the United States our ability to use our space capabilities by disrupting, destroying our satellites, which are critical to our national security,” said Vice President Harris. “These tests, to be sure, are reckless, and they are irresponsible.”
Such tests do untold damage warned Vice President Harris, “when China and Russia destroyed their respective satellites, it generated thousands of pieces of debris — debris that will now orbit our Earth for years, if not decades.”
So far, the 18th Space Defense Squadron has identified more than 1,600 pieces of debris from the Russian test. There are over 2,800 pieces of debris still in space from China’s test 15 years ago. The 18th Space Defense Squadron tracks debris and satellites to prevent collisions. “This debris also presents a risk to the safety of our astronauts, our satellites, and our growing commercial presence,” said Vice President Harris.
She called on all nations to join the United States in committing not to conduct such missile tests. The Biden administration has already begun to identify and implement norms of responsible behavior in space in other contexts.
One example is the Artemis Accords — a set of non-binding principles, based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that guide the civil exploration and use of space. 18 nations have signed the Accords, committing to responsible behavior in space to facilitate space exploration, science, and commercial activities.
“As we move forward,” said Vice President Harris, “we will remain focused on writing new rules of the road to ensure all space activities are conducted in a responsible, peaceful, and sustainable manner.” The United States will continue to lead by example.