Vice President Kamala Harris announced Monday night that the Biden administration is setting a self-imposed ban on anti-satellite missile testing with the goal of making it an “international norm for responsible behavior in space.”
The U.S., China, India and Russia have all carried out such tests, which generate dangerous space debris. The U.S. is the first to impose such a ban.
“Simply put, these tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them,” Harris said during remarks at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The vice president said the U.S. hopes other nations will follow suit.
The U.S. has identified and tracks over 1,600 pieces of debris that Russia created when it used a missile to destroy a satellite in November and more than 2,800 that China generated when it carried out its own test in 2007, Harris said. Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite missile test created a field of debris that threatened the International Space Station.
“This debris presents a risk to the safety of our astronauts, our satellites and our growing commercial presence,” she said. “A piece of space debris the size of a basketball, which travels at thousands of miles per hour, would destroy a satellite. Even a piece of debris as small as a grain of sand could cause serious damage.”
“These weapons are intended to deny the United States our ability to use our space capabilities by destructing, destroying our satellites, satellites which are critical to our national security,” Harris said. “These tests, to be sure, are reckless, and they are irresponsible. These tests also put in danger so much of what we do in space.”
Ahead of her remarks, the vice president met with members of the United States Space Force and United States Space Command, receiving briefings on their work advancing U.S. national security.