Pentagon Says Russia Placed Weaponized Satellite in Space

The US Defense Department assessed that the satellite Russia launched into low Earth orbit in mid-May was likely a counter-space weapon that could pose a threat to the US government satellite that is also in low Earth orbit.

The Russian launch was first revealed by Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood before a vote on a UN Security Council resolution on outer space security on May 20.

Wood also alleged that Russia launched similar counter-space weapons in 2019 and 2022.

In a press briefing last Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that the Russian satellite launched into low Earth orbit on May 16 was possibly a counter-space weapon “capable of attacking other satellites” in the same orbit, including a US government satellite.

Ryder also confirmed what Deputy Ambassador Wood alleged in his remarks, saying the Pentagon determined that it shared similar characteristics of “counter-space payloads” that were deployed by Russia in 2019 and 2022.

Ryder said the Pentagon would “continue to monitor” the situation and that the United States had “a responsibility to be ready to protect and defend the space domain” to ensure “uninterrupted support to the joint and combined force.”

When asked if the Russian satellite posed a direct threat to the US government satellite, Ryder suggested that it did, saying it was a “counter-space weapon in the same orbit as a US government satellite.” 

Countries are required to make advance notifications before any space launches. However, Ryder did not say whether the US was informed in advance about whether the May 16 launch included a counter-space weapon.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov refused to comment on what he described as the Pentagon’s “information leak.”

Ryabkov told reporters in a press briefing last Wednesday that Russia’s space program was “developing as planned” and said that spacecraft are launched “for various purposes,” including to strengthen Russia’s defense capabilities.

Ryabkov dismissed the Pentagon’s assessment, saying it was “not news.”