Last week, November 15, Russia has launched its anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) to purposefully shatter the non-operational 4,410-pound Cosmos 1408 satellite that was launched into space in 1982. However, it caused a huge cloud of space junk that includes 1,500 pieces of trackable size debris.

This was not received well by many and one firm expressed their concerns about the "irresponsible act" of Russia for endangering the crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS) and all spacefaring nations.

 Russia's Anti-Satellite Weapon Test Created 1,500 Space Junk, Prompting Astronauts in the ISS to Take Shelter in Escape Pods
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
SpaceJunk, Miguel Soares, 2001, 3D animation.

Russia's Anti-Satellite Weapon Test Resulted in Huge Cloud of Space Junk

Space junk is debris from discarded launch vehicles or parts of a spacecraft floating around in space hundreds of miles from Earth's surface. As Science Times previously reported, space junk poses a great danger as it increases the risk of collision with satellites of the space station.

But recently, a huge cloud of space junk was created after Russia purposefully shattered its non-operational 40-year-old satellite using its anti-satellite weapon. This move was criticized by countries and other space firms, calling it irresponsible.

Daily Mail reported that based on sensor readings of the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST), experts confirmed the break up of Cosmos 1408 in low Earth orbit that has now become even more congested than it was before.

They said that kinetic anti-satellite tests are usually carried out against objects for a strategic purpose or to demonstrate or test the technological capabilities of a new technology developed by a country.

But this is not the first time that a satellite was purposefully shattered as China, the US, and India have done the same in the past and created massive trails of space junk. The EU SST said that those kinds of tests lead to the creation of more space debris that puts satellites, spacecraft, and astronauts in danger.

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Is It Advisable to Blow Up Satellites in Space?

Four NASA astronauts, who arrived at the space station a week before via the SpaceX Dragon capsule, were awoken when the space agency called them and instructed them to the spacecraft docked to the space station. Similarly, two cosmonauts were told to take cover in their Soyuz spacecraft. The astronauts stayed in these orbital lifeboats for about two hours as the ISS passed through the huge cloud of space junk from Russia's ASAT.

NASA was forced to cancel a handful of planned activities and warned that the schedule might be in flux due to the unexpected event. Mission Control said in a statement that it was a "crazy way to start a mission" for the astronauts who had just recently arrived.

Aerospace Security Project deputy director Kaitlyn Johnson said that they were shocked that Russia chose to test ASAT the way they did, which shredded the satellite whose debris intersects with the path of the space station and putting the lives of the astronauts on board in danger.

NBC News reported that the Russian defense ministry confirmed the test and denies any risk to the ISS. They claim that the US was aware of the resulting fragment but that those did not and will not pose any threat to the orbital stations, spacecraft, and space activities.

So, the real question is whether ASAT tests are advisable. Despite space being a finite resource, there is a theoretical limit as to how much it can hold called the "orbital carrying capacity."

According to The Atlantic, a day might come that humans would exceed this capacity that bands of orbit become so crowded that it will become more difficult for new and defunct satellites to navigate, and blowing up satellites in space will only make it worse.

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