Russian official says civilian satellites may be a ‘legitimate’ military target


A stack of 60 Starlink satellites being launched into space, with Earth in the background.
Zoom / A constellation of 60 Starlink satellites launched in 2019.

A Russian diplomat said civilian satellites could be legitimate military targets in a statement that appeared to refer to Starlink, which provides broadband access in Ukraine. In a statement to the United Nations, the Russian official said civilian satellites “may become a legitimate target for retaliation.” Open-ended Working Group on Space Threat Reduction.

Quote from Unofficial English translation From the statement made by Konstantin Vorontsov, head of the Russian delegation to the working group of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) on September 12. Translation with other country data from the session is provided in Office for Disarmament Affairs meeting website.

Vorontsov said:

We would like to emphasize a very dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies, which became apparent during the events in Ukraine. That is, the use by the United States and its allies of civilian infrastructure, including commercial, in outer space for military purposes. Our colleagues do not seem to realize that such actions in fact constitute indirect involvement in military conflicts. Semi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.

Starlink division of SpaceX Sent satellite stations to Ukraine after the Russian invasion of the country disrupted broadband networks, with The United States provides funding on this effort. Internet accessed via satellite Useful in military operations in Ukraine against Russian forces.

Vorontsov’s statement went on to claim that the use of civilian satellites may be infringed Outer Space Treaty:

The actions of Western countries unnecessarily jeopardize the sustainability of peaceful space activities, as well as many social and economic processes on Earth that affect the well-being of people, particularly in developing countries. At the very least, this provocative use of civilian satellites is questionable under the Outer Space Treaty, which provides for the exclusive peaceful use of outer space, and should be strongly condemned by the international community.

Russian news agency Select Tas Vorontsov in October 2021 as Acting Deputy Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but no longer holds this situation.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk warned in March It is a “high” possibility that Russia would attack Starlink equipment in Ukraine, although he was referring to user stations on Earth rather than satellites in space. It was a Russian cyber attack Able to temporarily disable satellite service Made by Viasat when the war started.

catch later mentioned Starlink has resisted Russian jamming and hacking attacks. The then head of the Russian Space Agency, Dmitry Rogozin swipe musk to help Ukraine.

Russia’s anti-satellite missile test met with condemnation

Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test in November 2021. “After that, US officials condemned the shooting down of the two-ton satellite at an altitude of less than 500 km, which is sufficiently high that debris remains in orbit at least the next day. five to ten years and could threaten many valuable assets, including the International Space Station.” Ars article said at the time.

a article Today notes on Vorontsov’s note that “Russia’s statement at the meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Working Group on Space Threats comes just a day after two other countries, Germany and Japan, A pledge not to conduct satellite destructive testing (ASAT)to join the chorus of countries including the United States, Canada and New Zealand that committed to reducing space debris after the November 2021 Russian test which It sparked widespread international condemnation. Russia has not yet made such a pledge.”

In April, Vice President Kamala Harris He said the United States It “commits not to conduct destructive direct boarding tests of anti-satellite missiles” and called on all other countries to do the same. “Simply put: These tests are dangerous and we are not going to run them,” Harris said.

Attacking Starlink in space will not be simple because SpaceX has Launched more than 3000 satellites And seek permission to finally release it Tens of thousands.

The article notes that Starlink was not the only satellite operator providing critical services in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine. “In addition to Starlink, commercial satellite imagery companies such as Planet, Maxar and BlackSky have been providing critical intelligence by capturing and publicly sharing images of the conflict, and played an unexpectedly important role during the Russian invasion,” the article said.


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