US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday announced a unilateral ban on testing anti-satellite missiles in an attempt to reduce space debris. The self-imposed ban was authorised with an aim of making it an “international norm for responsible behaviour,” hoping that other nations like India, Russia, and China will follow the suit, Harris said while speaking at the Vanderbilt Space Force Base in California. “Simply put, these tests are dangerous and we will not conduct them,” the US VP said.

Harris stated that her decision stemmed from the fact that the direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles (ASAT) tests carried out by world powers like Russia, the US, and China since the 1980s, have generated concerning levels of orbital debris in the spade after they have hit satellites.

Most recently, Russia carried out such a test in November 2021 to destroy a Soviet-era defunct satellite and China in 2007, leading to “one of the most pressing threats to security and sustainability of space.”

Calling the tests “reckless and irresponsible”, she mentioned that the proposal to put an embargo on the tests was taken under greater urgency after Russia’s launch, which created 1,600 pieces of debris.

“Rules and norms provide us with a sense of order and stability. As we have seen in Ukraine, Russia has completely violated the set of international rules and norms established after World War II which provided unprecedented peace and security in Europe. In the face of Russian brutality, the world has come together to say that these rules must be upheld,” US VP Kamala Harris reckoned.

Trail of debris from China’s anti-missile test led to over 2,500 pieces in 2008, the floating leftovers from which recently threatened the International Space Station (ISS).

“This debris presents a risk to the safety of our astronauts, our satellites, and our growing commercial presence. A piece of space debris the size of a basketball, which travels at thousands of miles per hour, would destroy a satellite. Even a piece of debris as small as a grain of sand could cause serious damage,” Harris said.

US suspicious about China using space tech to block American radars

Meanwhile, the United States has remained suspicious of China resorting to its space technology in an attempt to block American radars. According to a report by the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), China may have a plan in waiting to use advanced space mechanisms to jam sophisticated weapons systems if the situation arises.

The 80-page report has now been submitted to US President Joe Biden’s administration for consequent actions. Worrying findings by the researchers also included that China has expedited its growth in space, “doubling the number of ISR satellites it has in space to 250 since 2018”.

Further, Beijing has enhanced the acquisition and pursuit of counter-space capabilities.

(Image: AP/Unsplash)