Russia has been accused of test-firing a weapon-like projectile that could “threaten the peaceful use of space” by knocking out other satellites.
The projectile that was recently launched by Russia during a satellite test had the “characteristics of a weapon”, said Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, the head of the UK’s space directorate.
He called for more responsible behaviour after raising serious concern about “the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites”.
It not only had the potential to “threaten the peaceful use of space” but “risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends”, Smyth said in a statement.
This is the first time the UK’s Ministry of Defence has publicly criticised Russian actions in space.
“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space,” Smyth said.
There are fears Moscow is developing a space-based weapon and this could prompt an arms race in space and its weaponisation.
The main concern is Russia potentially shooting down or disabling other satellites, but very few details have been made public about the type of projectile fired last Wednesday.
The US Space Force described it as a “non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon”.
Head of US space command Gen Jay Raymond pointed to evidence “that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon”.
He said Russia “injected a new object into orbit” from a satellite.
Raymond added: “This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems and [is] consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and allied space assets at risk.”
Russia has previously focused its efforts on ground-based missile systems that can shoot down satellites.