Watch CBS News

Space Junk Problem Just Got Worse With Russia's Anti-Satellite Missile Test

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP/CNN) -- Russian officials are denying accusations that they endangered astronauts aboard the International Space Station by conducting a weapons test that created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk.

U.S. officials on Monday accused Russia of destroying an old satellite with a missile in what they called a reckless and irresponsible strike that could pose a threat to space activities for years to come.

The missile test created more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris, according to US Space Command. The fragments are a hazard to the current seven-person crew on the International Space Station -- which includes two Russians -- and to other satellites that provide crucial communication services back on Earth.

Russia's Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed carrying out a test and destroying a defunct satellite, but insisted that "the U.S. knows for certain that the resulting fragments ... did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities."

It called remarks by U.S. officials "hypocritical." But NATO's chief agreed that Russia's actions endangered the space station.

This is not the first time Russia has carried out such tests. But Monday's incident drew Western condemnation for potentially endangering the ISS and its crew.

The crew had to quickly don their spacesuits and jump into their spacecrafts in case the station was hit by some passing debris, according to Russia's space agency ROSCOSMOS.

But in a message posted on Twitter, Roscosmos downplayed the danger.

"The orbit of the object, which forced the crew today to move into spacecraft according to standard procedures, has moved away from the ISS orbit," Roscosmos tweeted. "The station is in the green zone."

The newly-created space junk adds to the more than 9,600 tons of debris orbiting our planet, according to the European Space Agency.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.