The US and Russia have signed an agreement to build a $4 billion constellation for US and Russian companies to launch satellites into orbit.
The deal, which is the latest in a series of space-related agreements between the two countries, is expected to launch a constellation of up to 20 satellites that will help boost communications links and communications networks between the US and Europe.
The US and the Russian governments also signed a deal last year to provide Russia with an extra $2 billion to expand its space-based missile defense systems.
The first-stage booster of the Russian Soyuz rocket is launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russia, on March 15, 2021.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after signing the agreement with the US on March 16, 2021 in Moscow.US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (L) and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) shake hands during a joint press conference at the Defence Ministry in Moscow on March 20, 2021, after a joint military drill.
President Donald Trump has vowed to strengthen America’s presence in space.
The announcement of the new launch deal comes amid reports that Russia has ordered the US to destroy two US spy satellites that had been deployed in orbit to monitor Russian communications.
On Tuesday, the US military announced it had ordered the destruction of the satellite, which was in orbit for nearly two years.
The Pentagon said it was not immediately clear how the satellites were used, and that the satellites are “a highly classified military asset”.
“I can confirm that the Russian government has ordered us to destroy the two satellites, and we will do so,” a US defense official told reporters.
“This is an important milestone in our ongoing cooperation with Russia, which we believe to be in the best interests of both nations and the security of our nations,” the official said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigun has previously said that Russia will destroy its spy satellites as soon as possible.US military officials have said the spy satellites will be replaced with satellites that can track the positions of the US missile defence systems, as well as their tracking of the trajectory of incoming ballistic missiles.US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russia’s Defense Minister in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2021.(AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)The first satellite, named EchoStar, was launched on May 31, 2021 by a Russian rocket from the Baikal Cosmodrom, the country’s largest rocket launch site.
The second satellite, called EchoStar-2, was scheduled to be launched in December, 2021 but was postponed because of the conflict in Ukraine.US defence officials have also said that the US will begin deploying a third satellite, EchoStar 4, in 2018.
“We are committed to the continued deployment of our defense capabilities to Russia and the world,” US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Mark Welsh said on March 13, 2021 during a speech in Washington.
“We are working to develop and deploy a constellation with additional satellites to help us provide the US space fleet with additional capabilities.”
The United States will continue to lead the development of new technologies, the Air Force said, adding that its plans include the development and deployment of a constellation that will provide a more integrated and comprehensive capability for the air and space communities.
“Today, we are delivering an array of new technology that will make it possible to provide more effective, timely, and affordable defense against threats to our national security, as we continue to expand the range of our fleet of launch vehicles, satellites, sensors, and other assets,” the Air Department said in a statement.