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White House: Russia is developing anti-satellite weapons, but "no immediate threat"

White House: Russia is developing anti-satellite weapons, but "no immediate threat"
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The Biden administration, citing intelligence, confirmed that Russia is indeed developing anti-satellite weapons, although it is currently "inactive and does not pose an immediate threat."

President's national security advisor John Kirby noted that the administration had been monitoring events for a week but had planned to keep the information secret - until media reports "put pressure" on the White House, prompting the intelligence to be made public.

At the same time, Kirby added that although the technology is not yet deployed and inactive, Russia's desire to create anti-satellite weapons "causes concern." According to some reports, the weapon supposedly operates on nuclear energy, but Kirby did not confirm (or deny) this information.

As SpaceNews notes, satellites with atomic energy have been used for decades by both the US and Russia. The technology involves using a nuclear reactor to produce electricity to power onboard systems and electronic weapons. According to some data, Russian anti-satellite weapons plan to use similar electronic weapons as a "jammer" to disrupt the operation of other satellites.

"People seem to confuse nuclear weapons and satellites with nuclear energy," said defense analyst Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Harrison says that the use of nuclear weapons in space is a clear violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by the US, UK, and the Soviet Union. Countries are seemingly continuing to adhere to this agreement to avoid creating "real chaos that affects all satellites indiscriminately."

"We know this because the US detonated a 1.4-megaton nuclear bomb at an altitude of 400 km in 1962. It charged the Van Allen radiation belts and destroyed about a third of the satellites in low Earth orbit, including the first satellite of the UK," Harrison says.

For decades, Russia (and other countries) have been developing weapons that can destroy satellites in low Earth orbit:

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the US launched six military satellites on a SpaceX rocket - part of a new generation of spacecraft designed to track hypersonic missiles launched by China or Russia, and potentially new missile threats from Iran or North Korea, who are also developing their own hypersonic weapons.

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