It's official. The US will conduct no anti-satellite tests in space

But other nations may not follow suit.
Brad Bergan
A tactical representation of satellites in space (left), and the White House (right).1, 2

In space, you only get one shot at peace.

And every weapon used up there makes it more of a long shot.

This is presumably why the White House officially pledged to abstain from anti-satellite missile tests in space — urging other nations to do the same — according to a Monday announcement from Vice President Kamala Harris from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The Vice President says it's a move to establish and encourage a positive precedent against the weaponization of space between major global powers.

And, on paper, with global tensions mounting in the wake of the Russo-Ukraine conflict and Russia's 2021 anti-satellite missile test, Harris isn't wrong.

China, Russia, and other countries have executed dangerous anti-satellite missile tests

Harris' words came months after Russia executed — much to the distress of ISS astronauts and the wider aerospace community — an anti-satellite missile test in low-Earth orbit, flinging thousands of pieces of supersonic detritus into chaotic vectors that yes, endangered the lives of seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station at the time.

Luckily, the ISS successfully dodged serious blows, but it wasn't the first time this had happened. Back in 2013, a Russian satellite was struck by debris generated from another anti-satellite test, this time, from China.

"The long-lived debris created by these tests now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations' security, economic and scientific interests, and increases risk to astronauts in space," said Harris' office in a statement emailed to the press on Monday.

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"Overall, these tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations," added Harris' office. The Vice President has commented on space weapons tests in the past. In December 2021, while the National Space Council (NSC) was in session, the chair (Harris herself) said the increased activity in space called for new policies on space debris to be taken post-haste.

The US leads the Artemis Accords in fostering the largest consensus on space exploration

"Without clear norms for the responsible use of space, we stand the real risk of threats to our national and global security," said Harris during the NSC meeting, according to the White House's website. "We must establish and expand rules and norms on safety and security, on transparency and cooperation to include military, commercial and civil space activity."

This came amid a new U.S. Space Priorities Framework from the White House that spoke to the country's aims to expand its national security architecture into the final frontier. "As part of bolstering space mission assurance, the United States will leverage new commercial space capabilities and services to meet national security requirements and will deepen the integration of U.S. national security space capabilities and activities with those of our allies and partners," read the framework

"The United States also will engage diplomatically with strategic competitors in order to enhance stability in outer space," continued the framework's text. One of the administration's means of engaging the world's space interests through diplomacy is the Artemis Accords, which seeks to garner global consensus on the viability of the United States' crewed Artemis missions to return humans to the moon. Romania became the 16th nation to join this NASA-centric project — in hopes of fostering a peaceful collaborative effort to explore the moon, and beyond. But whether this will happen as envisioned remains to be seen.

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