Russia and China continue to launch military rockets and test space weapons amid the coronavirus pandemic, a top U.S. general said Tuesday.
“Unfortunately in the case of the Russians, their increasing penchant for unsafe and what I would consider unacceptable behavior in space has not slowed down,” Lt. Gen. David Thompson, the U.S. Space Force vice commander, said at a Mitchell Institute event. “I can’t tell you what they’re doing with their crews and their individuals, but based on their macro-level activities, their cadence has certainly not slowed down.”
Russia tested a satellite-killing missile last month, drawing scorn from U.S. military leaders who said the “missile system is capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit.” U.S. Space Command also criticized Russia for operating two satellites close to American satellites.
“These satellites, which behaved similar to previous Russian satellites that exhibited characteristics of a space weapon, conducted maneuvers near a U.S. government satellite that would be interpreted as irresponsible and potentially threatening in any other domain,” Space Command said in an April 15 statement.
Earlier this week, a Russian rocket carrying a telescope disintegrated after launch, leaving behind a debris field that threatens satellites orbiting Earth. Meanwhile in April, a Chinese rocket carrying an Indonesian satellite failed to reach orbit, according to Space.com.
The Space Force plans to launch its secretive X-37B space plane on Saturday, but the U.S. military has delayed a number of other launches because of coronavirus. An April-scheduled GPS satellite launch will now go “no earlier than June 30” to “minimize the potential of COVID-19 exposure to the launch crew and early-orbit operators,” the Space and Missile Systems Center said in an April 7 statement.
Rocket Lab postponed the launch of three U.S. spy satellites from New Zealand, C4ISRNET reported. A National Reconnaissance Office satellite launch scheduled for June has been delayed until late August, Spaceflight Now reported last week.