Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 16, 2021

Russian Anti-Satellite Test Highlights Arms Race In Space

Yesterday Russia successfully tested a ground launched 'direct ascent' anti-satellite missile:

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said that Russia’s cutting-edge future weapon system being tested has hit its target with great precision.

"It is true that we have successfully tested a cutting-edge system of the future. It hit an old satellite with precision worthy of a goldsmith. The remaining debris pose no threats to space activity," Shoigu told the media during a working tour of military units in the Western Military Region near Voronezh.

The U.S., China and India have previously made similar tests of kinetic weapons designed to kill satellites. Such tests are problematic because they create debris fields which will endanger other objects in the earth's orbit:

Seven astronauts on the International Space Station were forced to take shelter in their transport spacecraft early Monday (Nov. 15) when the station passed uncomfortably closed to orbital debris, according to reports.

The space junk passes began in the pre-dawn hours of Monday and the International Space Station has continued to make close passes to the debris every 90 minutes or so, according to experts monitoring the situation. Russia's space agency Roscosmos confirmed the space junk encounter with, though NASA has not yet commented on the situation either publicly or to

Anti-satellite missiles can be used against more than satellites. An intercontinental missile will deliver its warhead on an out-in-space trajectory. An anti-satellite missile could destroy it before it reenters the atmosphere.

Why would Russia want to kill satellites one might ask. U.S. weapon producer Northrop Grumman recently gave an idea:

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) recently completed the critical design review of the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) prototype for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The review establishes the company’s technical approach for precise, timely sensor coverage to defeat ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

HBTSS satellites will provide continuous tracking and handoff to enable targeting of enemy missiles launched from land, sea or air. They are a critical part of the Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) multi-layered constellation of satellites, which can sense heat signatures to detect and track missiles from their earliest stages of launch through interception.


Tracking and targeting Russian hypersonic missiles? Looks like Russia seeks ways to prevent that.

Ain't arms races fun?

Russia and China have long urged the U.S. and others to agree to a space treaty that would prohibit active weapons systems in space, anti-satellite missiles and thereby also some of the anti-ballistic missiles defenses the U.S. would like to have. The U.S. side has consistently rejected to open negotiations over such a treaty.

The U.S. Space Command, founded last year to militarize space, is now accusing Russia of doing similar:

“Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of space by the United States and its allies and partners,” [U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander,] added. “Russia's tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations.”

The Russian Defense Ministry responded:

Russia’s Defense Ministry has branded the statements by the US Department of State and the Pentagon as hypocritical when they tried to accuse Russia of creating risks for the International Space Station (ISS), the military agency said on Tuesday.
The Russian military agency reiterated that in 2020, the US created the Space Command and officially adopted a new space strategy with "ensuring space superiority" being one of its official goals. "In their turn, the Pentagon both before these official steps and, moreover, afterwards, has been actively developing and testing in orbit without any notifications the newest attack combat means of various types, including the latest modifications of X-37 space drones," the ministry said.

The X-37 is an unmanned space shuttle that the U.S. has sent on several months long secret missions. It is suspected of being able to hijack or manipulate satellites.


In the following exchange of public diplomacy the British Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament also displayed U.S. grade hypocrisy:

Aidan Liddle @AidanLiddle - 21:56 UTC · Nov 15, 2021
Russia’s ASAT missile test goes directly against its own calls not to weaponise space, and illustrates exactly the threats to space systems 🇬🇧 highlighted at #FirstCommittee a few weeks ago. Russia needs to engage in the UN process on responsible space behaviours.

To which his Russian counterpart replied:

Mikhail Ulyanov @Amb_Ulyanov - 12:50 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
Sorry to remind you, Mr.Liddle, that it is U.K. and US are the main opponents of a legally binding instrument to prevent weaponisation of outer space. I remember my disputes with your predecessor in this regard.
Aidan Liddle @AidanLiddle - 12:57 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
Sadly, your draft treaty would do nothing to prevent this sort of thing, or other threats to space systems. That’s why we’ve launched a discussion at the UN about responsible space behaviours, which would. Looking forward to working with Russia and others in that regard.
Aidan Liddle @AidanLiddle - 12:59 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
We don’t rule out a legally binding instrument on outer space. But it’s got to deal with the threats as they are today.
Mikhail Ulyanov @Amb_Ulyanov - 13:08 PM · Nov 16, 2021
If the draft treaty on #outerspace tabled by Russia and China isn’t perfect, nothing prevents London to make counter proposals and start negotiations. But for U.K. a legally binding instrument isn’t acceptable. It prefers vague and non-binding “responsible space behaviours”.
Aidan Liddle @AidanLiddle - 13:12 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
The draft treaty isn’t just not perfect, it’s fundamentally flawed. It’s not an appropriate starting point for negotiations. The new UN OEWG offers a vehicle for all states to discuss the threats, and possible solutions - including legally binding ones.
Mikhail Ulyanov @Amb_Ulyanov 13:20 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
OK, if you think so, table your own draft Treaty in addition to the first one and start negotiations in accordance with normal diplomatic practice. Unfortunately the very idea of a legally binding instrument to prevent weaponisation of outerspace is unacceptable for London.
Aidan Liddle @AidanLiddle - 13:32 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
Beginning negotiations involves having a shared understanding of the threats we’re trying to tackle. That understanding is not yet there, so proposing a draft instrument would be premature. Hence the OEWG, to begin a thorough and inclusive study of the problem.
Mikhail Ulyanov @Amb_Ulyanov - 14:19 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
British colleagues believe that it would be premature to start negotiations on outer space b/c over the last 40 years at the Conference on Disarmament we haven’t yet got shared understanding of relevant threats. No urgency? Let’s then spend another 40 years for general exchanges.
Aidan Liddle @AidanLiddle - 14:28 UTC · Nov 16, 2021
There’s plenty of urgency: we can’t afford many more irresponsible DA-ASAT missile tests. We think that’s a threat. Russia clearly doesn’t. So it sounds like we do still need to reach a common understanding.

The excuse for not entering into treaty negotiations seems flimsy. Its another 'international rules based order' issue in which the 'west' wants to make up the rules and be the only side that is allowed to breach them.

The insistence of not negotiating a treaty guarantees a further arms race in which enormous amounts will get spend on useless weapons.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis @ArmsControlWonk - 5:59 PM · Nov 16, 2021
The next step is that the US starts talking about how we need long-range conventional missiles to target the Russian ASATs that target the satellites that our anti-missiles rely upon to intercept Russian ICBMs.

It is also a race in which the U.S. is now several years behind the state of the art systems Russia and China are fielding today.

It is a race in which all common people lose out.

Posted by b on November 16, 2021 at 17:13 UTC | Permalink


I remember some quote from a US official about military advantage being all about technology rather than just the size of the economy (lost the game so they move the goal posts), seems the US still thinks that it has the edge in technology. It will be rudely awakened to the new reality. Also, makes it so easy for the MIC to ramp up its profits on all these new technology "solutions".

Posted by: Roger | Nov 16 2021 17:38 utc | 1

"Why would Russia want to kill sattelites (...)"
Are you kidding?? It's not just early warning sattelites but also spy sattelites, communication sattelites, GPS, etc. etc. The USA is a global military power and has the most sattelites of all nations. It's particular vulnurable to anti-sattelite weapons, far more than Russia.

Posted by: m | Nov 16 2021 17:42 utc | 2

It prefers vague and non-binding “responsible space behaviours”.

I was going to make the comment about it being another "rules based international order" where "rules" means whatever the Amerikastani Empire comes up with, but I see you made the correlation already.

Posted by: Biswapriya Purkayast | Nov 16 2021 17:44 utc | 3

it was a reminder to the west that if russia can hit them if space with pinpoint accuracy, their misadventures in the black sea will soon bear fruit. this is another of putin's assymetrical response to the west's folly.

Posted by: titov | Nov 16 2021 17:47 utc | 4

"Why would Russia want to kill sattelites (...)"
Are you kidding?? It's not just early warning sattelites but also spy sattelites, communication sattelites, GPS, etc. etc.
Posted by: m | Nov 16 2021 17:42 utc | 2

Particularly important would be the satellites used to support positioning information for guiding US nuclear missiles. With the cancellation of the intermediate range missile limitations, I that would be of special importance to Russia.

Posted by: BM | Nov 16 2021 18:02 utc | 5

The League of Space-faring Nations, is a cool sci-fi sounding name that won't become a thing because of what the Brits and the US did to the last effort along those lines. Makes me think the UN such as it is, must have been some sort of post war accident that somehow slipped by. The Hegemony of the West cannot abide any sort of "instrument" that can meaningfully limit their freedom to war in any form.

Posted by: Lonkal | Nov 16 2021 18:23 utc | 6

Apparently an A-235 nudol launch.

Also apparently the A-235 can kinetic kill targets at an altitude of 400 miles without using a nuke.

Oh and also DON-2N is good for tracking (and now killing) LEO satellites.

So much for speculation.

Posted by: S.O. | Nov 16 2021 18:29 utc | 7

What more can be expected of the British Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament when not only he is Liddle in name, he is also little in thinking and understanding?

It seems so very typical of the British political elite to talk woffle like "responsible space behaviours" and "general understanding" while refusing to commit to doing anything concrete like actually proposing their own draft treaty and having to justify whatever is in it.

Posted by: Jen | Nov 16 2021 18:52 utc | 8

This should also be a good time to solemnly condemn and block the insane projects of Musk, Bezos and others who want to put literally tens of thousands of private satellites in orbit. If they fully carry on their plans, there will be a crash and a chain reaction, without any anti-satellite hit from Russia, US or China.

Lonkal - 6
The UN was created at a time when the West feared Stalin could send the Red Army all the way to Paris and the Atlantic. It was basically appeasement and a way to have enough time to catch up.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Nov 16 2021 19:19 utc | 9

The article about the"A235 Nudol" anti-missile in the English-language wikipedia says the missile is in development; the same article in the Russian-language wikipedia says the missile is operational. If yesterdays' Russian anti-satellite test was an A235 I guess it's operational.
In general: I have yet to encounter a positive article about Russia in the English-language wikipedia.

Posted by: Passerby | Nov 16 2021 19:41 utc | 10

The Twitter thread is hilarious yet extremely sad as it displays the twisted mind of the Anglo. Martyanov will certainly enjoy it. As things currently stand, Russia has a great many types of potential anti-sat missiles already deployed and ready to use. Furthermore, Orlov's description of the Outlaw US Empire's nuclear forces isn't too far off the mark and confirms the notion that the MIC is only concerned with its profits and not its products--it's a Paper Tiger Protection Racket:

"Add to this Russia’s updated nuclear doctrine, according to which any attack against Russian sovereign territory or Russian sovereign interests, whether conventional or nuclear, would open the door to a nuclear retaliation, launched upon warning, and Putin’s solemn promise to counterattack not just against the locations from which a strike is launched but against the centers of decision-making. Considering that Russian missiles are hypersonic and will reach their targets before those of the US reach theirs, and that Russia has the means to shoot down US missiles while the US is unable to shoot down Russian ones, if the US were to launch an attack, those who launched it would be dead before they could find out whether their attack succeeded in causing any damage at all or whether they had just suicided themselves for nothing. All of this adds up to an inevitable conclusion: under no circumstances will the US attack either Russia or China, using either conventional or nuclear weapons." [My Emphasis]

Mr. Ulyanov is negotiating from a position of strength and knows his opposite knows that too. That Putin is willing to scrap most of Russia's advantage but the Outlaw US Empire refuses to even negotiate is all the proof intelligent people need to see that those in the Duopoly running the Empire don't desire Peace and are indeed Anti-Human.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 16 2021 19:52 utc | 11

Hence the OEWG, to begin a thorough and inclusive study of the problem.
I'm sure I heard that line in Yes, Minister one time.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Nov 16 2021 20:16 utc | 12

Lasers. It all done with lasers now. On sharks.

Posted by: Patroklos | Nov 16 2021 21:01 utc | 13

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 16 2021 19:52 utc | 11

They cannot afford peace. Think of the careers. Think of the lack of skills useful in a real economy, an economy that makes things and provides real value.

Posted by: Bemildred | Nov 16 2021 21:09 utc | 14

This was last year...

Posted by: tesako | Nov 16 2021 21:37 utc | 15

There was a concept from the 1950s to use non-nuclear kinetic penetrators based in orbit. It was nicknamed “Rods from God”. The concept was shelved because the tremendous masses of the penetrators made it prohibitively expensive to even send one into orbit. If Musk’s Starship/Superheavy launcher works as designed and demonstrates the ability to orbit large masses at low cost, the idea becomes feasible.

Just sayin’.

Posted by: Kevin | Nov 16 2021 21:52 utc | 16

Murican Rentier-Bankers, MIC, MNCs, and PetroUSD will continue onwards. It's a Multi-Polar World; and having RUS and/or CHN involved in your Economy is the Safe Bet for many...

Posted by: IronForge | Nov 16 2021 22:03 utc | 17

@15 Tesako.

An impressive bit of video with the only problem being that it's fake.

The launches are real, yes, but the footage has been accelerated. The missiles are quick, but they ain't that quick.

Posted by: S.O. | Nov 16 2021 22:40 utc | 18

A Reminder:

"Country That Set Off H-Bomb in Space Calls Russian Shootdown of Own Satellite ‘Reckless’"

If you've never heard of the following, I suggest you inform yourself by clicking the above link:

"Starfish Prime was part of a larger series of tests known as Project Fishbowl, intended to find out what sort of danger a nuclear weapon posed if detonated at high altitudes, particularly by its electromagnetic pulse. Both the US and USSR had detonated very small nuclear devices in low Earth orbit before, but never one of this power and at this height. No one knew what would happen.

"The July 9, 1962, test saw a 1.4 megaton nuclear bomb loaded onto a PGM-17 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile and detonated 240 miles up near Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. While its destructive heat and shockwave were certainly too far away to affect anything on Earth, its EMP was actually strengthened by its great height, and the superpowered ions were spread far and wide by the Earth’s magnetic field, where they persisted for more than five years....

"'To our great surprise and dismay, it developed that Starfish added significantly to the electrons in the Van Allen belts,' US Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Glenn Seaborg wrote in his memoirs, according to Smithsonian Magazine [Link at Original]. 'This result contravened all our predictions.'

"The radiation from the EMP circulated the Earth for months after, creating a distinct radiation belt that was responsible for destroying six satellites, including the United Kingdom’s first satellite, Ariel 1, and a Soviet satellite, according to Discover Magazine [Link at Original]." [My Emphasis]

Yeah, all sorts of crap about radiation and what it does has prompted similar reactions: Gee, we didn't know that would happen! We Had no Clue! As with what the radiation emitted by vaporized depleted uranium does to the human body. Remember Gulf War Syndrome?

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 16 2021 23:38 utc | 19

It's a bit rich for the US to be lecturing anyone about endangering the ISS. In 2017 the DoD conducted a secret test of an inspector satellite that likely doubles as an ASAT using the ISS as a target. They even adjusted the schedule of arriving and departing spacecraft after a cargo spacecraft they wanted to use as part of the test was destroyed when the SpaceX rocket carrying it blew up during launch. The 'killer sat' passed just outside the 10 x 4 x 4 km safety zone around the station, close enough for any malfunction to cause a dangerous collision.

Posted by: S.P. Korolev | Nov 17 2021 2:12 utc | 20

It's easy to imagine that US Imaginary Enemy #1's test of an advanced weapon, on the same day the US was insulting the intelligence of US Imaginary Enemy #2, wasn't a coincidence.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 17 2021 3:36 utc | 21

@13 Patroklos I am convinced that a large part of the reason why the USA is so far behind in the field of hypersonic missiles and ABM defenses is that they convinced themselves several decades ago that such things as Aegis and Standard Missiles would be old-hat by now. Missile? Hah! May as well talk about bows and arrows and cavalry charges.

Come the 2020s and it was going to be sharks with frikkin' laser beams on their frikkin' heads.
Everything would be like, you know, Pew! Pew! Pew!

Oh, yeah, and rail guns as a second line of defense, coz' the good ol' USofA will be able to throw those around like lollies.

Only they could not make either technology work, and they are now left standing around, butt-naked but completely - if inexplicably - unabashed.

It'd almost be funny if it wasn't so serious.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Nov 17 2021 10:13 utc | 22

it's less about poor strategic planning, tho there's that too. it's more that the military procurement system is designed to prolong funding instead of to deliver usable products. as such, the system rewards incompleteness, incompetence and failure. it's worse than planned obsolescence, because the product didn't even work before its expiration date.

Posted by: mastameta | Nov 17 2021 13:46 utc | 23

Someone posted on Moon about an engineer applying for a weapons program.

He was told that his job was to design weapons that don't work for enemies that don't actually exist.

Posted by: arby | Nov 17 2021 14:44 utc | 24

About Star Wars space warfare, it looks like the US establishment is frustrated in their hopes of achieving full-spectrum dominance there too, because everything is so fragile. It might be possible for any country, by blowing up objects in their own airspace, to create enough space debris to destroy all the satellites and to make space impenetrable to further forays, by creating a cloud of space junk around the earth, something like in the film Gravity. If space were off limits to development, that would add another big limitation to technological development on the earth, especially communications.

Posted by: Cabe | Nov 17 2021 15:42 utc | 25

Posted by: Cabe | Nov 17 2021 15:42 utc | 25

The problem with war in space is there is no place to hide, and the logistics train gets really long and expensive, and it is already very expensive to get there at all. Hard to saturate with bombs too.

Better to avoid it.

Posted by: Bemildred | Nov 17 2021 16:34 utc | 26

While I think US policy towards the Russ is the very definition of insanity...

I also think this test is exactly the reaction those insane "war planners" had hoped to provoke.

The Russ need to remember that the USA's media is wholly subservient to the 3LA's who, are wholly subservient to a minuscule fragment of the uppermost class.

Putin would be well advised to tear a page from Gorbachev's playbook and come to the USA and speak directly to public gatherings of US citizens.

Yes, yes..I understand Gorbachev is wrongly blamed for Brezhnev's errors and the drunks [Boris Yeltsin] idiocy by the people of Russia. I happen to think Russians are wrong to place the blame on Gorbachev for the faults of others that came before and after. That said, whatever his faults, Gorbachev single-handedly stopped the cold-war with his "peoples diplomacy".

Putin continues to try to impress the men in the shadows because he has no faith in American populism and most likely, in populism itself. First Putin tried to be nice to the 3LA's puppeteers and when that failed he tries talking their shopworn language of violence and power with this test.

I suggest Putin stop talking to the elites altogether and go over the the heads of 3LA's media control and talk directly to the Gorbachev once did.

Posted by: S Brennan | Nov 17 2021 19:51 utc | 27

Cabe #25

It might be possible for any country, by blowing up objects in their own airspace, to create enough space debris to destroy all the satellites and to make space impenetrable to further forays, by creating a cloud of space junk around the earth, something like in the film Gravity.

Well maybe that is yet another reason why all those fish people from Sirius sector haven't been back for a while. Earth is probably listed as extreme hazard - do not approach in the galactic traveller's guide.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Nov 17 2021 22:04 utc | 28

Yeah, Right #22

Oh, yeah, and rail guns as a second line of defense, coz' the good ol' USofA will be able to throw those around like lollies.

Only they could not make either technology work, and they are now left standing around, butt-naked but completely - if inexplicably - unabashed.

That rail gun technology was demonstrated by an Australian engineer and was immediately smothered in the USA cone of silence and spirited away FREE to be further developed in the land of weapons failure. I guess other cultures with a design and development philosophy that has 'success' as a paramount outcome are also working on the principle. After all it is not a novel principle and likely has no enduring patent. Like lasers it needs a hefty electricity supply.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Nov 17 2021 22:15 utc | 29

3. You can use my open source acronym for 'rules based international order', RUBIO

Posted by: Bart Hansen | Nov 17 2021 23:26 utc | 30

Speaking of intertial launchers:

Inside SpinLaunch, the Space Industry’s Best Kept Secret

Posted by: Bemildred | Nov 18 2021 0:14 utc | 31

There is a flip side to the inertial launcher.

According to one commenter to this eighteen minute critical video:

The other thing to consider is that the centrifuge has to be perfectly balanced. That becomes a huge problem when you let the mass on one side disconnect. What's left of the centrifuge is no longer perfectly balanced and will destroy itself virtually instantaneously.

Even given these barriers pertaining to the laws of physics, I hope it has more success than Tesla's energy towers ;))

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Nov 18 2021 4:05 utc | 32


Maybe that was the point of the launch, to show in practice that with a handful of well placed missiles you can wipe the sky clear.

Posted by: Jörgen Hassler | Nov 18 2021 13:54 utc | 33

Where is Gordog?

Posted by: Laura Roslin | Nov 18 2021 15:46 utc | 34

Even given these barriers pertaining to the laws of physics, I hope it has more success than Tesla's energy towers ;))

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Nov 18 2021 4:05 utc | 32

I have a feeling it won't pan out too. Without grovelling over the math, the energies involved go up very fast, so you would need some really fancy materials to start with. Their solution seems to be a long reach.

People have been fooling around with centrifuges as energy storage too, but that also never quite seems to pan out. Don't know why, but I would bet it is partly materials failures when they try to really wind it up.

Posted by: Bemildred | Nov 18 2021 17:02 utc | 35

Where is Gordog?
Posted by: Laura Roslin | Nov 18 2021 15:46 utc | 34

My guess.
1. Too many impolite LOLs (b prefers disputes between commenters to be conducted with at least a veneer of respect)(?)

2. Kicked a hole in his own credibility in the 9/11 thread by pretending he was as knowledgeable about basic structural principles as he is about Rocket-mania. Then shot himself in the foot by claiming that the central core of WTC 1 & 2 supports the entire weight of each building.
That's not only wrong, but the correct info is readily available to anyone with enough curiosity to look it up(?)

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 19 2021 4:41 utc | 36

I enjoyed many of Gordog's submissions but was astounded when he wrote a post, outside his range of expertise, that claimed, among other things, that GDP growth would become linear.

I only took issue with this one bizarre claim in his post and tried, very hard, on a number of occasions, to politely explain why linear GDP growth did not make much sense.

However, Gordog would not stand down.

Imagine if I submitted a post on the topic of physics in which I included one bizarre claim. I don't think I'd get much sympathy if I got called on it and I refused to acknowledge my error.

Posted by: spudski | Nov 19 2021 16:20 utc | 37

Russia and satellites. They just make some problems

Posted by: casablancamir | Nov 24 2021 12:24 utc | 38

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