Russia has recently tested what is believed to be an anti-satellite weapon, US sources with knowledge of the test told CNN.
The US tracked the weapon and it did not create debris, indicating it did not destroy a target, the source said.
The Russian test, coming as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House next month, could be seen as a provocative demonstration of Moscow’s capability in space.
Russia has demonstrated the ability to launch anti-satellite weapons in the past, including its Nudol missile.
US military officials have expressed concerns about Russia’s burgeoning anti-satellite arsenal, as the US has become increasingly dependent on satellites for both military and commercial uses.
US officials believe Russia has also deployed what could be kamikaze satellites, known as “Kosmos 2499,” which are designed to sidle up to American satellites and, if ordered, destroy or disable them.
“We have very good surveillance and intelligence capabilities, so we can see the threats that are being built,” Gen. John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic command, told CNN in November. “So we’re developing capabilities to defend ourselves.”
Strategic Command, which oversees US space operations, declined to discuss the recent incident.
“We monitor missile launches around the globe, but as a matter of policy we don’t normally discuss intelligence specific to those launches,” Strategic Command said in a statement. “We remain concerned with growing space capabilities around the globe, particularly those of China and Russia, since both countries are developing or have developed counter-space capabilities. Specific questions regarding Russian launches or tests should be directed to Roscosmos or the Russian government.”
Russia is not alone in the development of these type of weapons. China has conducted similar tests, destroying an old weather satellite in 2007 – a move analysts saw as indicative of China’s growing military capability.
The US has also destroyed a satellite in space, obliterating one with a missile in 2008 after American officials said the satellite’s orbital decay posed a risk.