Japan and Germany are joining the US pledge, announced in April, not to conduct direct ascent tests of anti-satellite kinetic energy that creates orbital debris. Canada and New Zealand are the only two countries to have adopted the ban so far, but the Biden administration is working through the United Nations to persuade others to sign up.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the White House National Space Council, made the pledge on behalf of the United States on April 18, five months after Russia tested anti-satellite satellites on November 15, 2021 against one of its satellites that produced thousands of pieces of debris. .
The International Space Station was among the space objects endangered by debris. Its seven passengers, including two Russian cosmonauts, had to shelter in their Soyuz and Crew Dragon spacecraft for a day in case they had to make an emergency return to Earth. The risk of the International Space Station encountering space debris has doubled since the test.
During a space council meeting on December 1, 2021, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said the Department of Defense would like to see all countries refrain from direct-boarding tests of satellites that generate debris. Harris’ speech on April 18, 2022 made that U.S. policy.
The United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, China and India are the only countries that have conducted these types of debris generation tests.
None of the space treaties prohibit anti-satellite weapons and the United States does not promise that it will not develop, test, or use such weapons. The undertaking is not only to test direct-ascending kinetic energy weapons that destroy their targets by colliding in a way that creates space debris.
Direct kinetic energy anti-satellite weapons can be tested and tested against points in space rather than an actual collision with a satellite. Several “counterspace” methods are also available to prevent an enemy satellite from operating, such as jamming it with radio frequency or blocking it with a ground-based laser. The undertaking does not affect any of that.
The problem is space debris, which puts everyone’s moons at risk. Ensuring that the space environment is not clogged with debris so that it becomes unusable for future generations has been debated for a long time. It took the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space 11 years to negotiate a set of principles on the long-term sustainability of outer space activities that were unanimously adopted in 2019, but that has not stopped Russia from conducting the devastating ASAT test in 2021.
Japan and Germany announced their decision to accede to the US ban yesterday and today during the meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Japanese government made its pledge at the OEWG meeting yesterday and issued a press release today. The German government made that commitment today.
Other countries may join during this week’s meeting, which runs through Friday, but the US also plans to take it up through other UN channels.
At a meeting of the Space Council last Friday, Harris said, “Later this month, the United States will introduce a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling on other nations to make the same commitment.” Monica Medina, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environment, told the council that her colleague Mallory Stewart, assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance, would hold “extensive consultations” to ensure “widest adoption of the resolution.” possible support.
The United States wants all countries to join the pledge whether or not they have any plans to develop KE-ASAT weapons. But Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Germany do not.
“I invite all nations to join us,” Harris said on April 18. “Whether the nation is space-faring or not, we believe this will benefit everyone, just as space benefits everyone.”