U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris issued an official statement saying that the United States is pledging to stop testing anti-satellite missiles and urging other countries to follow the U.S. lead.
An anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) test is a military demonstration in which a spacecraft in orbit is destroyed by a missile system. Historically, countries testing anti-satellite systems have done so by destroying their own satellites in space.
This U.S. plan was born late last year after the Russian military destroyed a failed satellite with an anti-satellite system on Nov. 15. In the process, thousands of pieces of debris formed in low-Earth orbit that threatened the International Space Station.
Back in December, Kamala Harris tasked a relevant group to work with other agencies and develop proposals that would establish new national space security standards. The U.S. anti-satellite security pledge marks the first step in this direction. The White House emphasized that “the United States is the first country to make a declaration to end such tests.”
To date, four countries — the United States, Russia, China and India — have destroyed their own satellites in anti-satellite tests. The last time the U.S. destroyed a satellite was in 2008, when the U.S. Navy launched a modified SM-3 missile that shot down the defective National Reconnaissance Office USA-193 satellite.