US bans anti-satellite weapon tests, seeks global agreement

April 19, 2022  - By
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to media representatives alongside leadership from the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command during her visit to the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC). (Photo: USSF)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to media representatives alongside leadership from the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command during her visit to the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC). (Photo: USSF)

Updated April 20 with additional information.

The United States government has committed to ending the practice of anti-satellite missile tests, Vice President Kamala Harris announced April 18 at Vandenberg Space Force Base. She also urged other nations to follow its lead.

On Nov. 15, 2021, the Russian military destroyed a defunct satellite with its anti-satellite technology (ASAT), a test it followed with verbal threats to the U.S. GPS.

The Russian test created thousands of pieces of debris in low Earth orbit, and sent astronauts on the International Space Station into shelter as it passed through the debris field.

Image: janiecbros/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Image: janiecbros/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Harris made the announcement during an all-call in front of more than 200 members of the Space Force and Air Force.

Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, called on other nations to make similar commitments and to work together in establishing this as a norm, saying such efforts benefit all nations. “It is clear there is strong interest among our international partners to develop these norms. We must write the new rules of the road, and we will lead by example,” she said.

“The destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible,” Harris said. “The long-lived debris created by these tests now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests, and increases risk to astronauts in space. Overall, these tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations.”

In addition to making this announcement, Harris toured the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) and met with U.S. Space Force Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Combined Force Space Component Command commander, as well U.S. and coalition personnel who work in space operations, to learn about U.S. efforts in space and the dangers posed by anti-satellite missiles.

The CSpOC is comprised of both U.S. and allied partners and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It executes the operational command and control of space forces to achieve theater and global objectives. Additionally, the CSpOC hosts a Commercial Integration Cell representative to enhance cooperation with several commercial partners.

This was the first vice presidential visit to the nation’s premier West Coast launch installation since it was redesignated in May 2021 from an Air Force base to a Space Force base. The department of the Air Force announced April 4 that the base is the possible future home of the U.S. Space Force’s training headquarters.

While Harris toured the CSpOC, her husband, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, met with military and civilian spouses to discuss employment, mental health programs and diversity and inclusion.

Also in attendance at the all-call were Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks; Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander; Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for U.S. Space Force; Sen. Alex Padilla, Rep. Salud Carbajal and Rep. Ted Lieu.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.