U.S. Commits Not To Conduct Destructive Anti-Satellite Missile Testing

Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States commits not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing, and that the United States seeks to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space.

Speaking at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Monday, the Vice President also called on other nations to make similar commitments and to work together in establishing this as a norm, making the case that such efforts benefit all nations.

The United States is the first nation to make such a declaration.

At the Biden Administration’s first National Space Council meeting in December, Harris tasked the National Security Council staff to work with the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other national security agencies to develop proposals for national security space norms that advance U.S. interests and preserve the security and sustainability of space.

This commitment addresses one of the most pressing threats to the security and sustainability of space, as demonstrated by Russia’s destructive direct ­ascent ASAT missile test in November. China conducted a similar test in 2007.

A statement from the White House called the destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible. 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, the statement added.

Developing a shared understanding of what constitutes safe and responsible space activities contributes to a more stable space environment by reducing the risk of miscommunication and miscalculation, the White House said. This is especially important as there is an ever-increasing number of states and non-governmental entities that rely on space services and space assets that are vulnerable to debris.

This new commitment also protects U.S. interests in space. “Meaningfully reducing ASAT testing and debris generation advances U.S. national security interests and protects long-term U.S. interests in space exploration, space science, and space-enabled economic development,” the White House said in a statement.

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