EU’s Breton blasts Russia after missile strike on its own satellite

Pieces of a defunct satellite destroyed in a Russian missile test pose a risk to the EU’s own infrastructure in orbit and astronauts working at the International Space Station, the European Commission’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said Tuesday.

The missile test was targeted at destroying a Soviet-era satellite dubbed Kosmos 1408, which in turn shattered into 1,500 pieces of larger debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. Washington said the debris forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to temporarily seek shelter.

In an emailed statement, Breton said: “This anti-satellite weapon test has caused the generation of a significant amount of debris of a size that could endanger the European Union’s space activities as well as those of our member states.”

“The launch poses a major risk to our astronauts currently on the International Space Station and has triggered emergency procedures to protect them,” he added.

The French commissioner said so far none of the EU’s satellites — including those of its earth observation system Copernicus, or geolocation service Galileo — had been affected.

“Such an event is a reminder that space is increasingly contested and must become a fully-fledged dimension of our European defence strategy,” said Breton.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed the test in a statement on Tuesday evening but added that the “resulting fragments do not pose any threat to space activities.”

In 2019, NATO designated space as the fifth theater of conflict alongside air, sea, land and cyber. Breton said the European Commission will start work on a new space and defense strategy.



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