Video above: Just days ago, the ISS narrowly dodged space debris created by a Chinese anti-satellite weapons test
The U.S. is concerned that Russia carried out a major anti-satellite weapons test over the weekend, two U.S. officials told CNN. One of the officials said it may have created a potentially dangerous debris field in space.
U.S. Space Command confirmed that a rare and potentially dangerous "debris-generating event" took place but did not provide details or mention Russia. The two officials said the State Department is preparing to put out a statement later today.
One of the officials said a ground-based missile was launched at a target in orbit which would be notable because only a handful of successful anti-satellite weapon tests have been carried out by the U.S., Russia, China and India.
"We are actively working to characterize the debris field and will continue to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted," a Space Command spokesperson said. "We are also in the process of working with the interagency, including the State Department and NASA, concerning these reports and will provide an update in the near future."
The incident comes at a time of increased tensions between the U.S. and Russia. U.S. officials have publicly sounded the alarm about Russia's buildup of troops near its border with Ukraine, and on Monday, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia said they are considering triggering NATO's Article 4 over the migrant crisis unfolding at their borders with Belarus.
On Monday, the crew on board the International Space Station had to quickly don their spacesuits and jump into their spacecrafts in case the station was hit by some passing debris, according to Russia's space agency, ROSCOSMOS. It remains unclear if that particular debris was generated by the Russian anti-satellite weapons test.
NASA and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There are currently seven astronauts on the space station, including NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov as well as the newly arrived Crew 3 mission team, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.
On Monday morning, Shkaplerov tweeted, "Friends, everything is regular with us! We continue to work according to the program."
The space station is at risk of impact from objects too small to be tracked as it orbits the Earth from 220 nautical miles away. These tiny objects could be pieces of rock, micrometeorites, dust particles or even flecks of paint that chip off of satellites.