Russia responds after debris from explosion caused space emergency

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Russia has responded after the US accused it of endangering astronauts by exploding into space.

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It said it had tested an anti-satellite weapon, which involved destroying an old and long-dormant Soviet satellite. But it denied that the test ever put anyone in danger.

It followed US allegations that the explosion had spawned a vast debris field, containing hundreds of thousands of satellites that could have hit the International Space Station.


Amid fears of what might happen if that debris cloud collided with the floating laboratory, the crew – both the US and Russian teams – were forced to take refuge in their spacecraft in case of an emergency.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the test was reckless, posed a threat to the ISS and Chinese orbiting spacecraft, and showed Russia was developing new weapons systems. A British government spokesman condemned the test and urged Moscow to join a discussion at the United Nations on “responsible behavior in space”.

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Russia’s defense ministry said the test wreck did not pose a threat to the ISS and Washington knew it.

“The Russian Defense Ministry successfully conducted a test on November 15 that struck the non-operational Russian spacecraft Selina-D, which had been in orbit since 1982,” it said in a statement.

It said the United States, China and India had conducted similar tests in the past.

It said Russia was being forced to strengthen its defense capabilities after it was said to be testing weapons by the United States and Washington setting up a space force in 2020.

Moscow said it had called for years for a deal to stop the deployment of weapons in space, but Washington and its allies blocked the deal at the United Nations.

Officials from the US space agency NASA will try to discuss anti-satellite weapons testing during a visit to Moscow on Wednesday, Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the NASA chief as saying on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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