World 1408


December 8, 2021

Kosmos 1408 (Ikar No. 39L) was an ELINT satellite operated by the former Soviet Union. It was launched into low earth orbit on September 16, 1982, replacing Kosmos 1378. On November 15, 2021, the satellite was destroyed in a Russian anti-satellite weapon test, resulting in space debris in orbits of 300 and 1,100 km above the Earth. The risk of a possible collision led the crew on the International Space Station to take refuge in the return craft.

Purpose and release

The satellite was part of the Tselina-D [en] system of military reconnaissance satellites. It was developed by Yuzhnoye and had a mass of approximately 2,200 kg, with an approximate life expectancy of six months. It replaced the Kosmos 1378 satellite. The satellite was launched by the Tsyklon-3 rocket on September 16, 1982 from platform 32/2 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. It was in low earth orbit with a perigee of 645 km and an apogee of 670 km, at an inclination of 82.5°. Its orbital period was 97.8 minutes. Replaced Kosmos 1378.


On November 15, 2021, the satellite was destroyed, causing a trail of space junk that threatened the International Space Station. The seven crew on the ISS (4 Americans, 2 Russians and 1 German) took shelter in return pods to quickly abort their missions in case debris reached the station. The satellite was in an orbit just above the station and debris passes through it every 93 minutes. The crew took shelter only for the second and third pass through the debris field, after risk consideration; The debris also endangers other satellites. The US State Department subsequently accused Russia of targeting Kosmos 1408 during a test of an anti-satellite weapon, using the surface missile against the disabled satellite, saying it was "dangerous" and irresponsible". The next day, Serguei Choigu, Russian Defense Minister, acknowledged that the debris was due to a test of an anti-satellite weapon, but argued that it did not pose a danger to space activities. ) was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The system has been undergoing testing since 2014, but this was its first destroyed satellite. The Outer Space Treaty, ratified by Russia, bans some types of military activities in space, but not the use of weapons with conventional warheads. The US representative Ned Price [en] said that the event generated more than 1500 pieces of debris traceable by ground radar and hundreds of thousands more that are harder to track. The debris is expected to remain in orbit for several years, possibly decades. On November 16, 2021, they orbited at altitudes between 440-520 km. On the 17th, 300-1100km. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated, "With its long and relevant history in manned space exploration, it is unthinkable that Russia would not only endanger the US and international astronauts present on the ISS, but also its own own cosmonauts" with two cosmonauts among seven crew and the "actions are irresponsible and dangerous, also threatening the Chinese Space Station."

See also

ASM-135 ASAT 2007 Chinese anti-satellite missile test


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