RUSSIA has enraged the west and raised the threat of a space war by test-firing a weapon designed to knock out enemy satellites.
The Kremlin's military push to use weapons in space puts "US and Allied space assets at serious risk", the US Space Command has warned — while its UK counterpart said it risked peace in Earth's orbit.
The US Space Force, set up by Donald Trump last December, said it had "evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon".
This is the first time the Americans have publicly accused the Kremlin of carrying out an anti-satellite weapons test in space.
It said that on July 15, an object was fired at speeds of 400mph into space from a spacecraft, Cosmos 2543, which itself was described as having "birthed" — like a Russian doll — from its mother satellite, Cosmos 2542.
This is the same satellite which was spotted earlier this year stalking the Pentagon's spy satellite USA 245.
Russia's space agency ROSCOSMOS has confirmed the satellite was launched by a Soyuz-2 rocket on November 25 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, a sprawling Russian Space Force launch site some 500 miles north of Moscow.
The Kremlin has claimed the July 15 event involved a small space vehicle that "inspected one of the national satellites from a close distance using special equipment".
It added the "inspection" provided valuable information, which was transmitted to ground control.
But the US Space Force Command disputes this, claiming it was a space weapon test launch.
It said the craft's threatening action was "similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system's stated mission as an inspector satellite".
US Space Force Chief of Space Operations, General John "Jay" Raymond, said: "The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia manoeuvred near a US government satellite.
"This is further evidence of Russia's continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems.
"And [it's] consistent with the Kremlin's published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and Allied space assets at risk."
Gen Raymond added the US and its allies such as the UK, were "ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our Allies and vital US interests from hostile acts in space".