Russian anti-missile test creates space debris, sending space station astronauts for cover
State Department officials say Russia launched a ground-based missile to destroy one of its own satellites, creating 1,500 pieces of space trash.
Russia destroyed one of its satellites in low-Earth orbit Monday, creating thousands of pieces of space junk. In response, the astronauts living on the International Space Station were put at risk, according to multiple U.S. government agencies.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos issued a tweet Monday saying the seven people on the ISS, four NASA astronauts, one ESA astronaut, and two Russian cosmonauts, were forced to shelter in docked spacecraft because of debris.
U.S. Space Command and the U.S. State Department later confirmed a Russian anti-missile test created the debris. USSPACECOM is tracking the debris and estimates it will be in orbit for years, "potentially decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries' satellites."
The Russian space agency Roscosmos issued a tweet about the incident Monday, writing that the object that forced the crew to move into their spacecraft had moved away from the ISS.
"Friends, we have everything normal! We continue to work under the (rocket) program," Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov tweeted from the space station.
U.S. Space Command Gen. James Dickinson said the test "demonstrated a disregard for the security, safety, stability & long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations. Space activities underpin our way of life & this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible."
A State Department spokesperson confirmed to FOX Weather that Russia had conducted a "dangerous and irresponsible test fo a ground-based missile designed to destroy satellites."
According to the spokesperson, the Russian Federation executed one of its tests Monday, deploying a missile against one of its satellites in space.
"This test has so far generated over fifteen hundred pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller, untrackable orbital debris that put at risk the satellites of all nations," a State Department spokesperson wrote. "In addition, this test will significantly increase the risk to astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station, as well as to other human spaceflight activities."
The International Space Station is in orbit about 200 miles above Earth, an area highly populated with satellites and thousands of pieces of space junk created from old spacecraft or other manufactured objects.
Russia has long been a partner on the International Space Station, and until last year, the U.S. paid Russia more than $80 million per seat to fly Americans to and from the ISS.
"Russia's reckless and irresponsible behavior undermines the long-term sustainability of the exploration and use of outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia's claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical," the State Department statement said.
Russian news outlet TASS reported that Dimtry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, will attend a meeting Tuesday with NASA representatives during which the space debris incident will be discussed.
The U.K. Space Agency said orbital analysts are attempting to forecast where the satellite debris will end up.
Four of the space station resident arrived last week after SpaceX successfully launched the Crew-3 astronauts from Kennedy Space Center in Dragon Endurance. The three American astronauts and one German astronaut will be sheltering in the same spacecraft they arrived in due to the debris.
The State Department said it would work with its allies to let Russia know this type of "reckless and intentional generation" of space debris would not be tolerated.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he was outraged, "…it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board."