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US declares ban on using satellites in orbit for missile testing

US Vice President Kamala Harris has described the initiative as a step towards establishing "new international norm for responsible behavior in space".
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Written by Aimee Chanthadavong on

US Vice President Kama Harris has declared that the US will no longer conduct anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing in a bid to reduce space debris and the potential damage it can cause to satellites and other vital space objects.

The commitment is the first initiative to be delivered as part of a series of proposals developed by the country's National Security Council, Department of Defense, and the State Department to establish "national security space norms".

"The destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible," Harris said in a statement.

"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. Overall, these tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations."

The US is the first country to make such a declaration and is now calling on other countries to do the same in order to set a "new international norm for responsible behavior in space".

"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," Harris 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 which are vulnerable to debris."

She added that such a commitment would help demonstrate how space activities can be "conducted in a responsible, peaceful, and sustainable manner".

ASAT missile testing has previously been carried out by countries including the US, China, India, and Russia. 

Two years ago, the European Space Agency (ESA) inked an €86 million deal with ClearSpace SA to clean up orbit with spacecraft equipped with pincers designed to grab space junk. At the time of the announcement, the spacecraft was scheduled for launch in 2025.

"Cleaning space is no longer optional," ClearSpace said. "Removing human-made space debris has become necessary and is our responsibility to ensure that tomorrow's generations can continue benefiting from space infrastructures and exploration."  

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