Russia deployed anti-satellite weapon into space, US warns

A Soyuz-2.1b rocket was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome
A Soyuz-2.1b rocket was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome - RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE/AP

The United States believes Russia has launched a new weapon into space capable of destroying satellites.

Cosmos 2576, deployed via a rocket launched from western Russia last week, has been described by Pentagon officials as “a counter space weapon”.

It is travelling in the “same orbit” as a US government satellite, according to the Pentagon, which said it was monitoring the situation and is ready to “protect and defend the space domain”.

On Tuesday, Major General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said: “Russia launched a satellite into low Earth orbit that we assess is likely a counter space weapon.”

He added that it was “presumably capable of attacking other satellites”.

Space analysts have said that Cosmos 2576 appears to be in the same orbit as America’s USA 314 satellite.

Representatives from Moscow and Washington have repeatedly clashed over space weapons at the United Nations in recent weeks, accusing one another of seeking to militarise space.

A spokesman for the US Space Command said Cosmos 2576 was launched on May 16 from Russia’s Plesetsk cosmodrome, about 500 miles north of Moscow.

Turning space into military arena

Earlier on Tuesday, Maria Zakharova, a spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry, claimed the US was seeking to turn space into an “arena for military confrontation”.

Russia’s Roskosmos state space agency said the launch was “in the interests of the defence ministry of the Russian Federation”. The Soyuz-2.1b rocket was used as a launch vehicle, the agency said.

Since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has warned that US satellites assisting Ukrainian forces could become legitimate targets.

The White House suggested in February that Russia was developing a “troubling” new space weapon but said that it had yet to deploy it.

Last year, a report released by the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies claimed Russia was developing a range of anti-satellite weapons, including a missile that was successfully tested against a defunct Soviet-era satellite in November 2021.