SWF Releases New Infographic on Anti-Satellite Weapons and Space Sustainability

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Infographic: Anti-Satellite Weapons and Space Sustainability

Secure World Foundation is proud to present an infographic developed in partnership with Visual Capitalist on the debris created by anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. This infographic was thanks to the support of the Republic of Korea.

Today, a number of countries are developing counterspace and anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons which are capable of deceiving, disrupting, denying, degrading, or even destroying objects in space. The incentive to develop, and potentially use, these weapons stems from the growing role that space capabilities play today in every modern military force, particularly those of the major nuclear powers. Disrupting an opponent’s space capabilities might be considered  in a military setting, but it could also lead to nuclear escalation and create long-term risks even after the war ends. 

Some ASAT weapons are destructive in nature, physically striking an object in space and causing it to break up. Historical testing of these destructive weapons has contributed significantly to the amount of debris that exists in orbit, posing a threat to all objects in space. While no country has ever attacked another country’s space object in this way, the mere testing of destructive ASAT weapons represents some of the most significant debris-generating events in history that are creating problems for operational satellites today. To date, four countries have conducted destructive ASAT tests: the United States, Russia (U.S.S.R.), China, and India. 

Given the growing global reliance on satellites and space applications, many in the international community have begun calling for a ban or prohibition on the testing of destructive ASAT weapons. Recently, the United States became the first country to declare a commitment to no longer conduct destructive ASAT missile tests; this declaration was soon followed by a similar one by Canada. SWF applauds this commitment and urges other countries, even those not interested in destructive ASAT weapons, to do the same. Widespread adoption of the commitment not to conduct destructive ASAT tests will lead to making this a norm of responsible behavior, which can help ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities for governments, business, and civil society.

High-res version for printing available here

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Last updated on June 10, 2022