During her first-ever visit to Vandenberg Space Force Base April 18, 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the United States commits not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing in an effort to encourage more responsible behavior in space. She made the announcement during an all-call in front of more than 200 members of the Space Force and Air Force.
Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, also called on other nations to make similar commitments and to work together in establishing this as a norm, saying such efforts benefit all nations. “It is clear there is strong interest among our international partners to develop these norms. We must write the new rules of the road, and we will lead by example,” she said.
With this announcement, the U.S. becomes the first nation pledging to no longer conduct anti-satellite weapons tests. This commitment addresses one of the most pressing threats to the security and sustainability of space – dangerous pieces of debris that threaten all satellites, including those owned and operated by the U.S. military and the intelligence community.
In November 2021, Russia blew up a dead satellite with a missile, creating a massive debris field that will stay in orbit for years. The People’s Republic of China conducted a similar test in 2007.
“The destruction of space objects through direct-ascent ASAT missile testing is reckless and irresponsible,” said Harris. “The long-lived debris created by these tests now threaten satellites and other space objects that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests, and increases risk to astronauts in space. Overall, these tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations.”
In addition to making this announcement, Harris toured the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) and met with U.S. Space Force Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Combined Force Space Component Command commander, as well U.S. and coalition personnel who work in space operations, to learn about U.S. efforts in space and the dangers posed by anti-satellite missiles.
The CSpOC is comprised of both U.S. and allied partners and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It executes the operational command and control of space forces to achieve theater and global objectives. Additionally, the CSpOC hosts a Commercial Integration Cell representative to enhance cooperation with several commercial partners.
This was the first vice presidential visit to the nation’s premier West Coast launch installation since it re-designated last May from an Air Force base to a Space Force base, and since the Department of the Air Force announced April 4, 2022, that the base is the possible future home of the U.S. Space Force’s training headquarters.
While Harris toured the CSpOC, her husband, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, met with military and civilian spouses to discuss employment, mental health programs and diversity and inclusion.
Also in attendance at the all-call were Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks; Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander; Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for U.S. Space Force; Sen. Alex Padilla, Rep. Salud Carbajal and Rep. Ted Lieu.