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On November 15, Russia tested an anti-satellite missile on one of its own satellites, COSMOS 1408 and created a stream of debris that forced the International Space Station crew to take shelter in their Soyuz and SpaceX Dragon capsules.

The action has generated widespread international condemnation, including from the US Space Command, US State Department and UK Ministry of Defence. And rightly so – it was an irresponsible and menacing action in the context of recent progress towards global agreements on the responsible use of outer space.

NASA condemned the “irresponsible and destabilising” missile test, too, saying it had also placed China’s Tiangong Space Station and crew at risk.

Space environment harmed

The destruction of the COSMOS 1408, a defunct Russian spy satellite, generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris and likely thousands more that are too small to be tracked.

Russia’s space agency, ROCOSMOS, dismissed concerns regarding the debris field, tweeting: “The orbit of the object, which forced the crew today to move into spacecraft according to standard procedures, has moved away from the International Space Station orbit. The station is in the green zone.”

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