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WSJ: Russia tested space-based anti-satellite weapon with potential nuclear capabilities in 2022

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 16, 2024 8:33 PM 2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia in Korolyov, outside Moscow, on Oct. 26, 2023. (Grigory Sysoyev/Pool/AFP via Getty Images) 
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Russia tested a space-based anti-satellite weapon with potential nuclear capabilities in 2022, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on May 16, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The officials said that Russia had launched a satellite into space in February 2022 to test components for a potential anti-satellite weapon that would carry a nuclear device. However, the satellite that was launched doesn’t carry a nuclear weapon, the WSJ reported.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee warned in February of a "serious" but unspecified security threat from Russia. Reports then followed that the threat relates to Russia's desire to "put a nuclear weapon into space."

U.S. President Joe Biden later said that Moscow was indeed developing an anti-satellite space weapon, but it did not endanger people on Earth. He added that there had not yet been a decision to launch the weapon into space.

The Russian satellite, named the Cosmos-2553, was launched in February 2022 and has been orbiting Earth since then, operating as a platform to test "nonnuclear components of the new weapon system," officials told the WSJ.

Russian officials have claimed that the Cosmos-2553 is "intended for scientific research," which the U.S. officials say is unlikely. The Kremlin has previously denied that it has any intention to put nuclear weapons in space.

If Cosmos-2553 or a similar satellite were equipped with nuclear weapons, it could destroy hundreds of satellites in low orbit with a blast.

Outgoing Pentagon official John Plumb told Congress that it would be an "indiscriminate weapon" that has no "national boundaries, (and) doesn't determine between military satellites, civilian satellites, or commercial satellites."

Moscow has repeatedly resorted to nuclear saber-rattling throughout the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Critics say such statements are bluffs instead of Russia's genuine plans and are intended to scare the West into making concessions.

Bloomberg: US tells allies Russia may deploy nuclear anti-satellite weapon into space this year
The U.S. has told allies that Moscow could deploy a nuclear anti-satellite weapon or a mock warhead into space as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Feb. 20, citing unnamed people familiar with the issue.
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