Russian ASAT test endangers astronauts aboard the ISS – reports
(15 Nov 2021) Russia has reportedly shot down one of its old military satellites, Kosmos 1408, in an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test. The test created some 1,500 trackable pieces of debris that, according to Western observers, endanger the International Space Station. Indeed, the seven astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the Station temporarily sheltered inside their respective spacecraft, a Crew Dragon and Soyuz, but returned to the ISS later.
Russia is said to have launched a surface-to-space Nudol missile between 0200 and 0500 UTC on 15 November 2021 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, which destroyed Kosmos 1408. Launched in 1982, the satellite had been slowly losing altitude and was a little more than 450 km above the Earth.
There had been at least two Nudol flights before, none of which resulted in the destruction of spacecraft and the related creation of debris. While the number of 1,500 debris created in this instance is high, it is only half of the picture. The majority of the may decay soon and harmlessly, although this is not yet known.
Nonetheless, there is a much more serious question because human lives may be at immediate risk. The ISS orbits at 400 km altitude. Dr. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard and satellite tracker, found that the paths of the satellite and the ISS do come close to each other every hour and a half.
Any idiot (sorry for the language) could have known that blowing up a satellite in the orbital vicinity of the station was asking for trouble to say the least. Actually, if (!) the story is true as reported so far the amount of stupidity on the Russian side is mind-boggling – especially as they are one of the main ISS partners. It just doesn't make any sense.
This is a developing story. There has been no Russian statement so far on the alleged ASAT test. However, the U.S. response doesn't sound so good. The State Department did not say exactly what their response would be: "[W]e will work with our allies and partners in different ways to make clear that the United States — that the international community — is not going to tolerate this kind of irresponsible behaviour."
Reference: Sat-ND, The Verge, Ars Technica