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Russia May Be Launching Nuclear Space Weapon Soon, Officials Warn

Orbit Wars

Russia may be launching its nuclear anti-satellite spacecraft into orbit soon — even as its own government denies that such a weapon exists.

As the New York Times reports, American intelligence officials are now warning their European counterparts that Russia's reported space nuke will be launched within the next year.

If it's launched at all, that is. Confoundingly, the intelligence community is tempering its predictions with uncertainty about whether Russia would actually blast its own satellites just to spite ours — or if it may launch a "dummy" version, as unnamed officials are quoted as calling it.

This all comes after repeated warnings from American and European officials, and began last week when the head of the House Intelligence Committee cryptically called on President Joe Biden to declassify information about a so-called "national security threat" being kept from the public.

After the enigmatic comments, the White House confirmed that it had knowledge of the Russians developing an anti-satellite space weapon, an assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied.

Last weekend, unnamed American intelligence then officials added fuel to the fire when leaking information to CNN about the weapon's purported capabilities, including the assertion that it was designed to blast out a massive energy wave that could disable a huge number of satellites, including Russia's own.

Deny Everything

With German officials warning that all that derelict space junk resulting from such a weapon could essentially destroy low-Earth orbit for everyone, it's no wonder officials are ringing alarm bells — but then again, this kind of chaos and panic may be exactly what Putin wants.

Beyond royally screwing with the entire globe's satellite capabilities, any deployment of a weapon in space would also violate the 1967 Space Treaty, which prohibits every country from launching any weapon of any kind into space.

Publicly, though, Putin said earlier this week that Russia is "categorically against" sending weapons into space.

"We not only call for the observance of the existing agreements that we have in this area," the Russian president said, per state media quoted by the NYT, "but we have proposed many times to strengthen these joint efforts."

Other Kremlin officials went so far as to suggest that the US and its European allies were making up claims of a space nuke. As Forbes reported on Friday, Kremlin spokesperson called the reports of a Russian space weapon a "malicious fabrication" and "trick" used to promote its large Ukraine aid funding bill, which is currently being debated by lawmakers.

Whichever way you slice it, the news of this alleged space weapon is sowing discord — and although we can't say for sure what's going on, this chaos does seem to be slightly benefitting the Russians as we approach the two-year anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine.

More on satellites: Massive European Satellite to Plummet Back Down to Earth Uncontrollably