Earlier this week, Vice President Harris announced that the United States will no longer conduct anti-satellite missile testing in space. In her statement, she highlighted the dangers caused by the related satellite debris.
From Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, she stated:
I am pleased to announce that as of today, the United States commits not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing.
Simply put: These tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them.
We are the first nation to make such a commitment. And today, on behalf of the United States of America, I call on all nations to join us.
Whether a nation is spacefaring or not, we believe this will benefit everyone, just as space benefits everyone.
In the days and months ahead, we will work with other nations to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space. And there is a direct connection between such a norm and the daily life of the American people.
If a satellite was taken out by debris, it could affect the daily weather forecast, GPS driving directions, and even your favorite TV station.
Critical infrastructure, like wind turbines that power our homes, well, they rely on satellites for connectivity.
Satellites help us track the climate crisis. They enable our commercial activities. And they help us protect our troops and our people.
All of this is threatened by the debris created by these reckless tests.
These tests also threaten the lives of astronauts in the International Space Station.
In fact, I spoke earlier this month with Mark Vande Hei who just returned from 355 days in space on the Space Station. An American record.
While he was in space, Russia conducted its anti-satellite missile test. He had to shelter in an escape capsule in case the Space Station was hit by debris.
Russia’s action was a threat not just to his life, but also to those of Russian cosmonauts.
Let’s hope other nations are quick to follow. Further discussions and decisions on limiting the number of satellites in low-Earth orbit would also be helpful. That said, it’s a start.