Russia is developing a new anti-satellite weapon that could soon disrupt Western spy satellites flying over its territory.
The Space Review published a new report indicating "strong evidence that a space surveillance complex in Russia's northern Caucasus is being outfitted with a new laser system called Kalina that will target optical systems of foreign imaging satellites flying over Russian territory."
Construction of the Kalina project began in 2011. In a 2014 financial document, Kalina's stated purpose was to "create a system for the functional suppression of electro-optical systems of satellites" using high-powered laser pulses.
Another document from 2017 described Kalina as a "laser system for electro-optical warfare" and said it was a special quantum-optical system" being developed by the Rosatom state corporation.
Kalina can permanently blind optical sensors on satellites, and this is different than other laser weapons known as "dazzlers," which can temporarily blind optic systems).
Russia's desire to target satellites via a so-called 'soft kill' approach is a much different strategy than launching an anti-satellite missile, as it recklessly did in November 2021, knocking a defunct satellite out of orbit and, in return, generating 1,500 pieces of space junk.
The report said, "the project has suffered numerous delays, but recent Google Earth imagery shows that construction is now well underway."
News of Russia's next-gen laser weapon comes as Space X CEO Elon Musk has said his company could launch more satellites than Western adversaries can shoot down. It seems like the Kalina project could soon challenge Musk's satellite constellation via low-cost beams of light rather than costly missiles, making it cheaper and easier for Moscow to take down more satellites.