Everyone needs to calm down: experts assess Russian nuclear space threat | Russia | Space

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Rumours that Russia is planning to deploy nuclear weapons in space have been dampened down by experts who say that while such technology is possible, there is no need to push the panic button.

The furore kicked off on Wednesday when the head of the US House of Representatives intelligence committee, Mike Turner, called for the Biden administration to declassify information on what he called a serious national security threat.

While Turner gave no further details, it was later reported by news outlets, citing unnamed sources, to involve Russia’s potential deployment of a nuclear anti-satellite weapon in space. The Kremlin dismissed the claim as a malicious fabrication.

Dr Bleddyn Bowen, an associate professor at the University of Leicester who specialises in outer space international relations and warfare, said the the lack of detail was no reason to panic. It’s so vague and cryptic, it could be a number of different things. [But] no matter what they are, none of them are a big deal, to be honest. Everyone needs to calm down about this.

Russia is bound by several legal restrictions regarding the use or presence of nuclear weapons in space. Article 4 of the Outer Space treaty (1967) bans nuclear weapons from being put into orbit, installed on celestial bodies or otherwise stationed in outer space, while the New Start treaty aims to reduce the number of deployable nuclear arms. The Partial Nuclear Test Ban treaty (1963) bans nuclear explosions in space.

Even if Russia ignores these agreements, there are other considerations. Bowen said the rumoured threat may relate to nuclear-tipped anti-satellite weapons but that such a threat was nothing new.

These are the first and the most crude kind of anti-satellite weapons ever built: the Americans had them in 1959. He said any state with nuclear weapons already had the technology to use them in space, broadly speaking.

Another possibility, Bowen said, was that the…

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